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Can you trust anyone, any more? A hallmark of the EU referendum has been the sheer quantity of untruths told by both sides of the campaign — Remain’s claim that each household would be £4,300 worse-off after Brexit, for example, or Leave’s assertion that Britain sends £350m to Brussels every week. The fact that these are both untrue has not stopped Stronger In or Vote Leave from continuing to use them.
The most striking message in this campaign was about “experts”. When Michael Gove announced “I think people in this country have had enough of experts”, it was greeted with incredulity by the chattering classes. After all, if this attitude is pushed to its logical conclusion, anyone with knowledge on anything can simply be ignored. But, as has often happened in this campaign, the Brexiters’ message has chimed with what many voters are thinking.
A survey conducted by YouGov on trust in notable figures helps explain why the Brexit campaign is doing so well. In all areas of public life, Leave campaigners do not seem to trust anyone — from well-known business people and think-tanks, to Bank of England representatives and newspaper journalists (who are equally disliked by all).
Some of the divides are stark. Economists have a net trust rating of 41 among Remain voters, whereas Leave voters have them on -36. People from the Bank of England have a 34 rating among Remainers, versus -45 among Leavers. But significantly, Remain voters appear to be sceptical too. Politicians from Britain have a -45 trust rating among pro-EU supporters, compared with -73 among Brexiters.
On politicians, the divide between Bremainers and Brexiters is split along ideological lines — those planning to vote Leave have a net positive trust rating for Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, while Remain backers trust Jeremy Corbyn and John Major.
The figure most trusted by both Remain and Leave supporters is Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert personal finance website. Since Mr Lewis is backing a Remain vote, the Stronger In campaign would do well to use him much more.
Remain is the campaign of the establishment and it is sticking to the same old script. On Thursday evening, George Osborne will don his white tie to deliver the annual Mansion House speech. If his futuristic post-Brexit nightmare budget was any indication, it will be another doom-laden address.
Combined with Mark Carney’s latest warnings about what Brexit would mean for sterling, the dangers of Brexit are clearer than ever. But of course, Messrs Carney and Osborne are both experts. What do they know? This is proof, if any more were needed, we now seem to live in the age of the anti-expert.