John Major has called on “ultra Brexiteers” to “stop shouting down anyone with an opposing view”. Brexiters Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg proceeded to do just that, calling Major “bitter” and “angry” and his article the “ramblings of a vengeful man”.
In fact, the former Tory prime minister’s Mail On Sunday article was largely focused on the economic risks of leaving the EU’s single market without a free trade deal in place. Alongside this he also criticised “the minority of ‘Ultra Brexiteers’” for their “vitriolic and personal attacks” on public figures from judges to foreign leaders, calling their behaviour “profoundly undemocratic and totally un-British”.
In an appeal to parliamentary sobriety, he advised other “more reasoned, more civil, and more democratic” pro-Brexit MPs to “disown their rancorous colleagues” who manage to “demean both themselves and their cause”. To the hardliners themselves, he recommended “thoughtful, cogent argument, instead of the low-grade personal abuse”.
Backbench Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg is reported in The Sun as having responded: “John Major’s article is no more than an internally contradictory moan. He calls for an end to soundbites with a sound bite and a serious debate with an outpouring of bile. It is pitiable that a once important figure now so belittles himself.”
The Mail also quotes Rees-Mogg as calling the article “the bitter ramblings of a vengeful man”.
Fellow former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is reported to have responded: “John Major goes on and on fighting old battles. I am astonished anyone listens. I am sorry that John Major still continues to appear bitter and angry about the referendum result.
“I would simply remind him 25 years ago in a sense he created all of this by passing the Maastricht Treaty which set the direction of Britain on a pathway out of the EU. It’s not what Britain joined – we joined a marketplace and he ensured it became a supranational state.”
When politicians attack a person so vitriolically and fail to address his arguments, that suggests their own arguments are weak.
InFacts contacted Duncan Smith and Rees-Mogg, asking whether they wanted to engage with any of Major’s economic arguments in more depth. At time of publication we had received no reply.
Edited by Hugo Dixon