Gosh. Have I missed something? I hate it when Swen prods me like that when I’m fast asleep in my favourite comfy chair. Did you say we’ve voted out? Told you so.
It was when I was having lunch with Evil about a month ago that I started getting vibes. We discussed the bookies odds on Brexit and the general consensus around the table was that the odds were sound. Do the bookies ever get it wrong, I asked? Evil gave me one of his withering Captain Mainwaring looks. Stupid boy.
But it was over the last week that I felt there was a real disconnect between what I was hearing on the ground and what the barrow boys were doing in the dealing rooms. During the week of 13 June there was a perceptible shift towards Brexit in the opinion polls. Then, on 16 June came the ghastly and senseless murder of Jo Cox MP. The polls moved back to REMAIN. Take a look at the chart of USD/GBP in the week that followed. Meanwhile, I continued chatting with kindly strangers – and conceived the pronounced impression that, outside the fleshpots of London, there was a mood abroad. I definitely sensed that the FX market euphoria was overdone.
Did I ever mention that all the major banks’ risk models went into melt-down in 2008? When financial institutions call an outcome wrongly, they get it badly wrong. On Tuesday this week I tried to warn readers of these pages that the precipitous rise in the Pound against the Dollar could not be justified by mere opinion polls. As usual, sentiment has its own feedback loops. When the Pound continued rising in the US after the markets closed in London on Thursday evening – to just shy of US$1.50 – I knew something was up. I even posted on Facebook something to the effect that either the guys in red braces knew something we didn’t know or they were overbought.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t sleep last night. That low pressure weather affected me. The plan was to go to bed at nine and wake up at just before four. But it didn’t quite work out like that.
After dinner, I started listening to Mahler (Symphony number Nine – conducted by Abbado – exalting, and pregnant with doom…), and paced around my library, the dogs looking on half-curious, half-bored – as dogs do. I could not resist catching Mr Dimbleby at ten – and then smothered him at 10:07. Expatiation all round – but then what does one expect?
I switched to CNN. Amanpour and Quest. I always find, if I am in a lonely exotic hotel room, Christine Amanpour’s stress-timed exhortation of the ordinary detail of daily politics, totally arresting. Last night, she was a veritable diva. Mind you, she could make queuing for the check-out at ASDA sound like a geo-historical fault line. (Madam, do you quite realise the profound significance of buying that brand of biscuits…).
And of course, fortified, like the monks of Normandy, with l’eau chaude améliorée, I watched on throughout the night. Cannock Chase, Dumfries and Galloway, Thanet, Litchfield and Ynys Môn. All places I have loved – and many more. And they all declared for OUT… (Okay, Dumfries was narrowly IN).
I couldn’t help feeling some uncharitable glee as the night wore on and the barrow boys unloaded their Pounds. By 03:30 the Pound was at US$1.40. By 04:10 it was at US$1.36. The point of no return came at 04:39 when even the BBC declared that REMAIN could not now catch up. The Pound sidled down to US$1.33 before pepping up again.
Why did LEAVE win? I think that there were three main reasons.
The first is the thing we were not allowed to discuss until recently for fear of being labelled racist: immigration. This is far and away the biggest concern amongst traditional working class Labour voters who believe (with some justification) that they have been most disadvantaged. On polling day figures were released which showed that the UK population had grown by over 500,000 last year. That was partly because of EU migration – and partly thanks to the fact that indigenous seniors are living longer. And by the way, I am very pro hard-working immigrants.
The second reason, in my view, was that Mr Cameron’s deal to “reform” the EU was such a damp squib that many of us came to the reluctant conclusion that the European Union was beyond reform. I reflected on this back in a piece in February.
The third reason is that, thanks to people such as Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the realisation grew that when parliaments give all their powers away to unelected supra-national bodies, democracy perishes. Of all the hundreds of thousands of words I have read in the last four months the most important argument for sovereignty was advanced by the great Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph. I urge anyone who has not done so already to read his article.
The shock waves are reverberating across the globe. I note with mixed emotions that, even before the Prime Minister announced his departure at 08:22, the Paris, Frankfurt and Milan bourses were down more than London. As I write the Pound has recovered somewhat to US$1.3950 – and is still rising.
The sun is shining – it is a beautiful late June morning as we step forward into a new world. And yet I detect a spring in our step. We don’t know what deal we are likely to get, nor who shall lead us; and yet the confidence is palpable. Forget Obama. Forget Juncker. This is now a country where people can soar again because WE ARE ONCE MORE FREE to make our own decisions – and our own mistakes!