In September, four days after the markets were going haywire in response to the disastrous mini-budget by the former Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, the very rich, Brexit-supporting hedge fund manager Crispin Odey gave his verdict to readers of the Daily Telegraph.
The decision of the markets to rubbish the mini-budget, and sell government bonds and the pound against the dollar, at one stage cutting sterling’s value to about level with that of the US currency and reducing the rating of UK government debt to about that of its Greek equivalent, was all down to…Remainers.
Odey claimed that the “historic rout in the wake of Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax cuts was triggered by Remainers in the City who ‘hate’ the Government”.
It’s the Remainers’ fault
The Remainers therefore somehow infiltrated the currency and bonds markets and, somehow, persuaded all those traders to sell Government gilts and sterling, so triggering a collapse in the value of both. Somehow.
I doubt Odey, whom I have never met but who is a clever and sophisticated market operator, believes any of this. I have no idea if the editor of the Daily Telegraph, who I have also never met, believes this either. I suspect, though, that Chris Evans – no relation to the other one – thinks a sufficient number of his readers will indeed believe this. Because they need to.
These were the mad, mad days of the “anti-growth coalition”, anyone who appeared to oppose anything the Truss Government was trying to do. The International Monetary Fund, the Bank of England, possibly, obviously all the opposition parties, Green campaigners, they were all part of a malign conspiracy to do the then-Government down and oppose their policies.
Someone was trying to bring down the Government, and by implication discredit the golden dream of Brexit, those sunlit uplands. Someone was to blame. Reality, and the markets, had intervened. Reality, and the markets, had to be wrong. Those Telegraph readers, and other supporters of Brexit, needed to know why.
I have explained here just what went wrong, and why the Chancellor was wrong-headed in his belief that he could prevail over those markets.
The Odey thesis, of Remainer saboteurs controlling the financial markets, is gibbering madness and as I say I suspect he knows it. Most independent commentators, including the Government’s own bean-counter, now accept that Brexit has failed in its aims and is now a negative for the UK economy.
Those still wedded to Brexit need to find someone to blame, though. I have suggested here before that Brexit has become a cult. Brexiteers need an alternative version of reality to cling to.
Cult of Brexit
I have been reading of late about the psychological foundation of cults, why seemingly normal people are drawn in, and why they find it difficult to leave. This is a good summary: “A cult is a group or movement with a shared commitment to a usually extreme ideology that is usually embodied in a charismatic leader,” says one academic.
People are drawn to cults because they explain to them otherwise difficult to comprehend world events in one simple package. Having been drawn in, they expend an enormous amount of psychological capital. It is difficult, years later, to accept you have been misled, because that means all that emotional capital expended in support of the cult has been wasted. It is easier to go along with what the cult believes, even if external reality suggests the opposite, than to make that painful shift.
Cultists need ‘deprogramming’
For that reason, trying to extract supporters from a cult is often described as “deprogramming”. Those involved in doing this have to overwrite a version of reality that is supported by what is going on in the real world on top of that which the cultist has come to believe.
To quote the above study again, “One element is cognitive dissonance. The theory… suggests that when people are confronted with facts that contradict their beliefs, values and ideas, they will feel psychological discomfort… In a cult setting, each compromise makes it more painful to admit you’ve been deceived.”
We now know that the biggest ever majority thinks Brexit was a mistake. The latest Chancellor refuses to accept it was in economic terms a mistake despite the views of almost all of those independent economic commentators.
Whatever he really believes, he has to go along with the cult. Those that still believe in the “purity” of Brexit, a shining ideal they have pledged their whole beings to, will not be convinced by any news from the real world. They will require a great deal of painful reprogramming.