Sunday, February 28, 2016

Feeding the Piranhas

John Rentoul has an interesting opinion piece here in which he argued that Ed Miliband "fed the piranhas" by providing support and encouragement to the hard left. He suggests that

"Ed Miliband fed the piranhas. He gave some meat to the most dangerous and destructive elements of his party, and encouraged them to think that there would be more. Once the feeding frenzy got going, the only person willing to put a whole cow in the river was Jeremy Corbyn. The piranhas have got what they wanted and all that’s left of the Labour Party is a skeleton."
 
"Much the same happened to the Republican Party in the US. John McCain and Mitt Romney fed the Tea Partiers and this year the killer fish came for the whole elephant. In Donald Trump they have found a candidate who is most unlikely to become president – a poll last week found 49 per cent of Americans were “terrified” of the prospect – but the piranhas don’t care."

He askes whether Boris Johnson has done the same thing by coming out for Brexit.

Hmmm.

The weakness of the "feeding the piranhas" argument is that it's fine if you limit it to encouraging people who are hopeless enthusiasts way out of line with most British people, but starts to fall to bits is you use it to mean the least concession to anyone who disagrees with the fashionable metropolitan consensus.

So for example whether Boris is feeding the Piranhas rather depends on what sort of Brexit campaign he encourages. There are an awful lot of British people who are more than a bit fed up with the EU and it doesn't necessarily put you on a fast track to extremism and electoral suicide to empathise with them. There are perfectly sane and reasonable people who support Brexit.

However, there are also a very vocal minority whose obsession with the EU is, to put it politely, a bit unbalanced. They are the ones responsible for the potentially suicidal infighting within the rival leave camps and hysterical kind of pro-Brexit messages which make many people want to vote Remain. They are the sort of people who stand a good chance of handing victory to "Remain" in a campaign which ought to be winnable for "Leave" just as Ed Miliband spent five years making it possible for David Cameron to be elected in an election which Labour could, had they been more sensible, have won.

If Boris Johnson et al encourage that kind of person they will indeed be feeding the Piranhas.

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