Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
21 June 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 11:37am

If anyone wants to be PM after Brexit, they’re insane

Voters already prefer blaming politicians to consulting experts. That isn't going to change.

By George Kendall

Leave campaigner Michael Gove has ruled out running for Tory leader. He is wise.

If we vote for Brexit, and a Leave campaigner becomes Prime Minister, their every word of reassurance will be repeated back to them a thousand-fold.

As the country lurches into recession, economists will point out that 90 per cent of them had predicted this. Voters will ask the new Prime Minister: “Why did you say Project Fear was a lie?”

When companies start to relocate their businesses to Europe, the newly-unemployed will cry out: “But you said this would never happen.”

Pointing to the fine print of the handful of pro-Brexit economists, where they acknowledge there would be a cost, will be no use. Economists for Brexit co-chair Patrick Minford has admitted that it would “mostly eliminate manufacturing”. But how many voting on Thursday will know that? 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Of course, David Cameron has said he will remain as Prime Minister if the country votes for Brexit. He’d be mad to do so.

As calamity piles on calamity, the Leave campaign will shift the blame: “Your Project Fear talked us into this recession, those spiteful Europeans are punishing us for wanting to be free.”  Or: “It’s the immigrants’ fault.”

Content from our partners
Railways must adapt to how we live now
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping

There might be buyers’ remorse, but don’t bet on it. People are angry. And they’ve stopped listening to the experts.

According to Paul Johnson, director of respected thinktank Institute for Fiscal Studies: “Many economists I’ve met in recent weeks have confided that they are quite literally losing sleep over this. There is a palpable fear that something really quite grim for the British economy could follow a Brexit.”

But the public aren’t listening to them. Gove may be correct to say, “People in this country have had enough of experts”, but just wait for the ugly aftermath. There will always be someone else to blame. 

If we enter Brexit Britain, and the Leave campaigners allow Cameron to stay as Prime Minister, the question becomes: Would Cameron be foolish enough?

Why would he want to be Prime Minister? Would anyone?

George Kendall is chair of the Liberal Democrats’ Social Democrat Group.