Chris Wylie’s appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday was explosive; I happened to catch a tweet about it as it was about to start, and ended up sitting through all 2–3 hours of it. The Cambridge Analytica story is way bigger than Brexit alone, but nobody who values UK democracy can trust the EU Referendum result now.
Carole Cadwalladr’s latest exposés of Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave campaign funding have finally propelled the data hacking that compromised the EU referendum and US presidential election into global headlines. The timing could hardly have been better for my course on Digital Education in Global Context, which had been looking at social networks the week before the Wylie story broke, and at ethics and surveillance the week it happened.
It’s been another extraordinary few weeks for Britain and Brexit, with a chemical attack on British soil, revelations about data breaches, and a transition agreement that does nothing except hide inherent contraditions and postpone difficult decisions until after we’ve left the EU and lost all bargaining power or any way back from this mess.
The Commons Brexit committee has just published the official internal Brexit Impact study leaked to BuzzFeed last month, and it clears up a question I’d been debating with someone on Twitter the previous day. It started when MEP Seb Dance tweeted the list of Brexit impacts on regional growth of -2% to -11% and compared them with “Worst UK fall in 2008 crash: -2%”.
One commenter said, “You’ve confused a % reduction in growth with a fall in gdp. These are not the same.”
What #StopBrexit needs is more home-made campaign graphics. Here’s my attempt to get to the heart of the matter. (Why should Leavers monopolise the red, white and blue, and lions, or any other symbol of Britain for that matter?)
“I remember a time of chaos... ruined dreams... this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the mania called Brexit.”
It’s already almost a week since Boris Johnson’s supposed valentine to Remainers, and the debate has moved on (most recently, to David Davis’s invocation of post-apocalyptic Australia), but one part of Johnson’s speech hasn’t attracted as much critical attention as it might have. Perhaps it was such a high-pitched dog-whistle that it escaped most British commentators’ hearing. But to Australian-British ears, it was a clanging bell:
But we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers—and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.
“Look, the jury found you guilty and your execution is set for March 2019. You need to stop complaining that it was a mistrial, stop pointing out new evidence that has emerged since, stop lobbying the governor for a pardon, and get behind the original decision. Otherwise I question your commitment to justice.”
My kids have been learning some Scots poems at school for Burns Night over the past week—Burns’s “To a Mouse” for my older son, and “Twa-Leggit Mice” by the late Edinburgh poet J. K. Annand for my younger daughter. Cue a week of her asking for a snack by exclaiming, “Jings! I get fair hungert.”
I amused them both by reading out the Annand poem in my broadest Aussie accent. (It’s more honest than trying it in faux-Ewan McGregor.) Which reminds me that Burns Night on 25 January aligns with the morning of Australia Day on 26 January back in Oz, thanks to the time difference. Jings, I could go a snag.