Spectator Don't Panic

There are lies, damned lies and pretending to back Remain. I lie because I am a coward. I hug friends who burst into tears, petrified by life without the European Union. I sympathise with strangers, who act like Lady Di just died and there’s nowhere to lay flowers. I obfuscate, I mutter, I am evasive. And I am not alone. There are hordes of us who’ll not admit we voted Leave to our best friends, our next of kin.

We learned to keep schtum a long time ago — thanks to social media — since they’d defriend us if said we’d vote to leave. Now they are outraged, deeply confused — and unsure which of us to blame. ‘Literally no one on my timeline said they voted out, so it was just an echo chamber of smugness,’ says one of my friends — who has at least 500 on Facebook. Now they are howling: ‘I am never one to be political but you are racist scum.’ Or, ‘I can’t stomach a single thing today, let alone a scone or some cream tea.’

Just as the Stepford Students deny a platform to anyone with a view they disagree with, Twitter was purged of Leavers who — knowing the vitriol they’d attract — No Platformed themselves.

Of all the things to fall out about, for ever, the EU debate seemed most absurd. But it’s been weird to realise how personally others will take an EU voting preference that is the opposite of theirs. We learnt early on: vote Remain and you were pro-sunshine, a cure for cancer and world peace — a perfect dinner-party guest. Vote Leave and you were for fascists, rabies and the apocalypse — and not worth a handshake, even in gloves.

Young people voted overwhelmingly to stay in — or at least that’s what they told YouGov — so it’s not surprising that they treat the referendum result as a mortal insult. ‘Who the hell are we walking among?’ demands one whose status is: ‘Disillusioned. Sad. Looking on Rightmove Europe.’ But what’s genuinely concerning is the number of mothers who have gone online to advertise that their very young children are sobbing inconsolably thanks to Leave. There is reason to suspect Project Fear was part of the school syllabus. ASpectator colleague had to comfort his son because he’d been told that if he voted against the EU in a mock election, he’d be left all on his own, and did he really want that? At high school, such dunce-cap teaching would be inappropriate. When meted out to five-year-olds, it’s downright cruel.

We are all of us supposed to be soul-searching since the result was declared. Leavers are supposed to agonise and regret their decision. Remainers must come to terms with, uh, democracy. But most of all, we’re in a state of shock because the political class, the pollsters, the bookies told us that this wasn’t going to happen. And by the bookmakers, I mean we the punters — who created a market that reckoned staying in the EU was 80 to 90 per cent likely.

Partly, the odds were skewed by ridiculous bets by Remainers with loadsa money (such as the woman from London who staked £100,000 in her first, and most likely last, ever flutter), but I think the betting markets were also manipulated by something quite new: bare, shamefaced lying. When telephoned by pollsters, we lied. When directly asked by neighbours, we lied. When accosted by In campaigners with stickers, we smiled and we lied. Or perhaps it’s kinder to put it like this: we kept quiet. We did not tell the truth. Because there was, among Remainers, total and absolute intolerance for the (ironically) more popular point of view. They didn’t just reject Leave — they’d eject Leavers.

Punters staked the largest amount of money ever on a political event. Betfair took more than £60 million by Thursday afternoon. But weirdly — for people all hoping to make a fast buck — nearly all of it was squandered on the wrong result. And that’s because we were not merely evasive with each other, we were really convincing, so nobody suspected.

Pollsters have been fooled with increasing frequency. At the last general election, the pollsters called the election wrong thanks to the ‘shy Tories’ — voters who claimed they’d vote anything but Conservative when asked to declare publicly, while secretly planning to restore David Cameron to No. 10. Also busy fibbing were ‘lazy Labour’ voters, who promised to back Miliband but on the day couldn’t force themselves to bother. In 2015, the pollsters were fooled but the punters were not — since shy Tories confessed their true preference to those closest to them and bets were cast accordingly, losing bookmakers millions.

This time, however, something strange happened. Of the 17 million people who voted to leave the EU, the overwhelming majority went to bed believing they had voted alone and would wake up to Remain. In a society that feels increasingly compelled to share everything online, picturing it, cataloguing and preserving it, so it can be ‘liked’ by people we know, the ballot box is beautiful — and rare — for its secrecy. It is private. You don’t have to tell a soul. Although usually you do. Last week the atmosphere was so toxic — Remain so very ‘right’ and Leave so evidently ‘wrong’ — the truth only revealed itself in that furtive, pencilled cross.

Now, of course, there’s no point admitting what we’ve done: it’ll only make things worse. Like a cheating husband whose dalliance is done, it’s better to deny how it felt, or that we ever wanted to be free. If it comforts a broken-hearted Remainer to believe that we are leaving the European Union because of bigoted ‘stupid people who read theDaily Mail’, as a man ranting into his phone on the Thames path had it, or thanks to ‘peasants revolting’, as another mate’s lawyer claimed — then let them. They might cheer up quicker, as we all hope, if they can blame how they feel on bogeymen on a council estate far, far away. Not their neighbour, their sister, their son or their friend.

Why Hillary Clinton’s nomination is no triumph for feminism

The Spectator

Women of the world unite! Back Hillary Clinton! Otherwise, prepare to be damned to that special place in hell that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insists exists ‘for women who don’t help each other’!

Exclamation marks are crucial to discussing Hillary Clinton for President. If you don’t deploy one at the end of each sentence, people might think you’re hopelessly depressed that a woman is about to become leader of the free world. We’re supposed to be excited that a woman has just clinched the Democratic nomination. It took America 227 years to get so far. Never mind that the woman in question is widely disliked by a majority of women. Ignore the fact that she was nearly beaten by a kooky 74-year-old socialist called Bernie. Progress marches on. ‘People are talking about revolution,’ said Albright, at a rally for Hillary in February. ‘What kind of a revolution would it be to have the first woman president of the United States?’

The answer is: none. Yes, it could be wonderful — symbolically — if the most powerful person on earth were female. But if Hillary beats Trump to the White House, it won’t be feminism’s ultimate triumph, it’ll be one more victory for the institution of marriage. And, by my feminist standards, if that symbolises anything, it’s regression. Achieving power by means of marrying, and putting up with, a really shitty husband is something women have been doing for centuries. Yet no one points to Catherine the Great and says, ‘That’s the way to do it, gels!’ At least Catherine, when she got to power, knifed her cruel spouse, confident that she could rule much better by herself. Hillary has not only ridden the Clinton machine all the way to where she is today; she promises Americans that she’ll rely on her husband to govern. In May, she reassured voters in Kentucky that Bill will be ‘in charge of revitalising the economy because, you know, he knows how to do it’.

And yet still the young women of America have been lambasted for flocking to Bernie Sanders. These poor ignorant dears, the argument seems to run, will keep voting according to politics rather than what’s really important — a candidate’s sex. But surely it makes no sense to vote for Hillary because she, like you, boasts two breasts and a vagina? Margaret Thatcher sprang into power entirely thanks to her own smarts, cleaving to her own political vision, which she implemented, ruthlessly, through three elections. And feminists of the fifth wave never claim that as womankind’s great leap forward. Mrs Clinton, by contrast, has no message, no vision and no creed beyond, as Christopher Buckley recently pointed out in these pages, ‘I am so owed.’

And for what is she owed? Standing by her man, of course. The young women of America are too young to remember the deeply unedifying exhibition the Clintons made of themselves in the 1990s. Back then, Bill referred to his wife as ‘the First Liability’ because everything she touched — in the words of Martin Amis — turned ‘out to have the word gate tacked on to the end of it’. Worse still was how Hillary stuck by her husband as he stuck his penis into any woman willing — plus, according to Juanita Broaddrick, at least one who wasn’t. And she didn’t just stick by him; she helped him stick it to each and every member of her own sex who had the temerity to complain. And she continued to dance to Tammy Wynette’s tune even after he left office, as he gadded about the globe with billionaire Ron Burkle on a plane dubbed Air Fuck One. Now, Bill is too ill to carry on philandering, but he was at it as recently as 2008 when ‘a bimbo eruption’ — as a Clinton troubleshooter delicately put it — threatened to derail Hillary’s nascent campaign. Fortunately, Obama won.

The most appalling thing about Hillary Clinton is that she makes Donald Trump seem like a crazed feminist choice for 45th president — for at least he’s making a feminist argument. The Donald has been busy pursuing a line of attack first put forward by none other than America’s radical feminist-in-chief, Camille Paglia. ‘Hillary Clinton’s feminism is a fraud,’ Paglia wrote in an email to the Daily Beast last year. ‘She rode her husband’s coattails to wealth and power, and she has amorally colluded in the vilification and destruction of female victims of her husband’s serial abuse.’ In January, Trump started tweeting, ‘I hope Bill Clinton starts talking about women’s issues so the voters can see what a hypocrite he is and how Hillary abused those women!’

I don’t like sympathising with a misogynist billionaire whose ideas are as mad and bad as his hair — but he has a point. It matters how you get to power, and trampling all over your less powerful sisters without once stopping to help is not the way to do it. When I was a teenager, Bill taught me how men in power are allowed to treat women, while Hill stood by and watched. The most powerful man in the world appeared, with livid face, on television, on permanent loop, claiming that he ‘did not have sexual relations with that woman’, the 22-year-old unpaid intern whose best dress turned out to have the presidential ejaculate all over it. Hillary appeared to disregard the whole existence of Monica Lewinsky, just as she did any other woman Bill discarded as a used receptacle for semen and cigars.

Had Hillary divorced the oily bastard, acquired a clear set of political principles and made it on her own, I’d be the biggest cheerleader there ever was for Democratic candidate Rodham. But she hasn’t and she didn’t. She stuck by Bill, cynically, because she needed the man. That, to me, is no sort of womanhood at all. And I’m content to burn in hell for all eternity for saying so.