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The Cambridge Analytica scandal fitted this pattern perfectly. When I watched the pink-haired “whistleblower” Christopher Wylie being interviewed I noticed my teeth grinding. When he started giving interviews saying that if Brexit was going to happen it needed to be a decision made by the British people, I emitted a small yelp. The same thing happened when the ex-boyfriend of a Number 10 adviser who had worked for Vote Leave became the latest tool for trying to thwart Brexit. The fact that this person’s family in Pakistan apparently didn’t know he was gay became a major news story. Had Number 10 knowingly outed this person, putting his family at possible risk and making him cry in the process?

It isn’t that such things don’t matter at all. But they certainly don’t matter very much. Our democracy has not been undermined by an unproven (and now constantly corrected) claim about one uninvolved tech company or the manner in which a minor figure’s minor ex was or was not outed. Our democracy is being undermined by the fact that it is becoming ever clearer that the Brexit vote is the first since universal suffrage that a substantial chunk of the elite will not accept and are continuously trying to overturn.

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The whole Number 10 “outing” scandal clarified another thought. Social attitudes surveys — among other sources — have long demonstrated one way in which social change comes about. Whether it is gays, single mothers or any number of other things, the clearest cause of a change in attitudes is proximity to people from that particular group, so that the abstract becomes personal. A friend is gay. A much-loved aunt has a child out of wedlock. My hope and presumption after the 2016 vote was that everything would ease as time went by because people would realise that those who were close to them who voted the other way were not bad, and that we had to find a way through together as a country.

Yet a sizeable number of people — including some very influential figures — are doing the opposite of what would be needed to heal the issue. They are cutting off those who disagree with them, shaming those they should be trying to live with, and ring-fencing themselves from opinions they dislike. The result is that injections of poison like the Cambridge Analytica story keep getting pumped into a body which is trying to heal but being systematically prevented from doing so. I wish it were possible to believe that those responsible are ignorant of the fire they are playing with. But they must know — mustn’t they?
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Ambrose Rookwood
May 16th, 2018
6:05 PM
It's funny, but I don't recall Cambridge Analytica telling me how the EU was deliberately constructed to resist democracy, not enhance it, which was my main reason for voting 'Leave'. I don't recall them telling me about the huge trade deficit we 'enjoy' with the rest of the EU, which makes the crocodile tears about the Single Market/Customs Union ridiculous. They didn't exist in 1975, when I first (reluctantly) voted 'no' to the old EEC. Some people need to distinguish between principle and quagmire, and it is not my fellow BREXITers.

Lawrence James
May 9th, 2018
9:05 AM
These arguments are peripheral. A story has emerged that Cambridge Analytica tampered with the electoral process in defiance of electoral law. It is under investigation by the proper authorities. The Brexiteers, already struggling in a quagmire of their own making, are desperately attempting to forestall or discredit this process of scrutiny. One has a whiff of stinking fish.

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