“Hardline Brexiters now revel in their disregard for the statements of experts and fact-checkers,” William Davies writes in the London Review of Books, in an essay on politicans and the truth in the era of Brexit:
The reason there are so many mechanisms in place to remind powerful people of the actual facts of matters – mechanisms that include quangos and policy research institutes and publicly funded broadcasters – is that we assume they need constant reminding. A functioning constitution should be able to cope with the odd charlatan and bullshit artist, steering them gently away from the levers of power like a friend removing car keys from a drunk….
The beauty of ‘sovereignty’ as a political ideal is its metaphysical character, which evades efforts by economists and civil servants to pin it down, and seems to release political speech from the straitjacket of verifiable evidence.
Thus the idea “Leave” expands from “freedom to Leave the EU” to “freedom to take leave of the truth.” As it’s been in the US for the last couple years, it’s going to be very exciting to be a Conservative politician: you’ll get to wake up every morning, not knowing what your core beliefs are. Deficits are nothing to worry about! Russia is our friend!
Davies goes on to argue that the lies politicians tell— and among UK conservatives, have discovered that they can not only get away with (for a while), but are rewarded for telling— come in two varieties: campaign exaggerations and distortions of the truth, and a blithe disregard for keeping one’s promises. The first is “£350 million for NHS!”; the second is less spectacular but for economies and nations is a lot more serious. “Business investors can cope with various models of capitalism,” Davies argues. “What they can’t cope with is perpetual uncertainty.”