‘A small ratty-looking man whose front teeth stuck out underneath a thin ratty moustache. He liked to wear jackets with large brightly coloured checks and he sported ties that were usually yellow or pale green. Gormless and wrapped up in his own silly little life; he is a dealer in second-hand cars who does pretty well at it although he has some very dishonest tactics.’ Roald Dahl, Matilda

For anyone familiar with Roald Dahl’s children’s book “Matilda” you’ll instantly remember the bright and mischievous, little girl’s father Mr Wormwood. Mr Wormwood owns a second-hand car dealership and is in the business of putting a gloss of paint over clapped-out, broken-down wrecks, mixing sawdust in the oil and winding back the millage from 150 000 to 10 000 before assuring unsuspecting buyers,

“She’s almost new. She’s hardly done ten thou. Belonged to an old lady who only used it once a week for shopping.”

Mr Wormwood
Mr Wormwood copyright and illustration Quentin Blake

Mr Wormwood’s con has always struck a cord with me because that unsuspecting buyer could so easily be me. I know nothing about the mechnics of a car. Nothing. Nunca. Nada. Cars do not interest me. Not in the slightest. It took my three year old son to explain to me the difference between a two-wheel and a four-wheel drive when his remote controlled, bright yellow toy Beetle once got stuck in a sand-pit. I assumed the battery was flat or it had broken down but he assured me it wasn’t and showed me how only the back two wheels worked and not all four of them. That’s how clueless I am when it comes to vehicle technology.

At the end of the day all I want of a car is that it fulfils its function and drives me and my family safely and in comfort from A-B without breaking down. You could well argue that if I am in the business of purchasing a car I shouldn’t be naïve and I should do some home-work. Fair enough – but surely I don’t need to go on a two year technical adult education class on how the internal combustion engine of a car functions before I am allowed to buy and drive one?

When I think of the average British voter who was asked to make a choice between staying in the EU or leaving I suspect their approach to the EU was a bit like my approach to vehicle technology. It’s not that the average British voter is dumb, ill-informed or stupid as some have suggested. It’s just that the average British voter doesn’t care enough about the EU to want to spend their week-ends swotting up on principles relating to mutual recognition, the technology used at Dover that allow goods to move freely across borders or tariff variations on steel ball-bearings between the EU and Timbuktu before they can make an informed choice. Just as I rely on the good-will, the integrity and the honesty of a dealership to sell me a sound product so too British voters when it comes to the EU. They rely on the integrity and the honesty of politicians and journalists to inform them of whether the EU is the real deal or not.

Happily for clueless car types like me there is a whole raft of settled consumer law, contract law and misleading trade regulations that protect me from being swindled by an oily, second-hand salesman like Mr Wormwood. Were it otherwise I would be vulnerable to believing that the smart looking, shiny car showing only 10 000 miles on the dial is sound when in fact the car’s been given a lick of paint after an accident and has driven 150 000 miles.

Not so the British voter. There are precious few laws to protect us from snake-skin oily politicians and their false assurances that all will be OK if we leave the EU. This flaw in the law has left us all vulnerable to being swindled by unscrupulous politicians lacking in all integrity that uncannily resemble Roald Dahl’s Mr Wormwood. Nigel Farage’s preference for large brightly coloured checks is not unlike like Mr Wormwood’s favourite outfit.

Mr Wormwood Hollywood

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Image taken from Thame.net

His slick radio presentations making wildly unsubstantiated claims that the EU is “undemocratic” when he himself is an elected MEP is a classic case in point. No one can fault him for being an excellent swindler trying to dress his jovial, little fibs up as informed, educated opinion.

Or what about Boris Johnson? OK, Johnson may not resemble Mr Wormwood in person but his infamous “Red Bus” could have been driven straight out of Mr Wormwood’s garage by Mr Wormwood himself.

the-deep-irony-of-boris-johnson-waving-a-pasty-aloft-as-he-campaigns-to-leave-the-eu-136406031474403901-160511135054
Image from hombbt.com “The deep irony of Boris Johnson waving a pasty aloft as he campaigns to leave the EU.”

Johnson’s slick assurances of a swift trade deal and staying in the single market “You don’t need to be in it to win it” sounds horribly like Mr Wormwood’s, “She’s almost new…”

Or his “…the EU can go whistle” is not unlike Wormwood’s “Belonged to an old lady….”

Or his “We are going to get a deal which is of huge value and possibly of greater value … We are going to get the best possible deal for trade in goods and services.” could be Mr Wormwood’s “…who only used it once a week for shopping.”

Of course Boris Johnson waving a Cornish pasty in the photo above is another case in point. Mr Johnson understands perfectly well that the Cornish Pasty is protected by tight EU laws – which British producers will no longer benefit from if we leave the EU with no deal as Mr Johnson is a big advocate of.

Nigel Farage of course began the con but Johnson perfected the art with his baritone voice, his humour and his jolly wit. It didn’t take either of them long to assemble a Goon’s Army of wannabe con-artists all looking to hitch a ride to the highest offices in the land by tricking the unsuspecting British voter into voting for Brexit. The horribly long list of con-artists who are more than happy to dip their fingers into the pot for a ride to the top are Johnson’s snivelling side-kick Michael Gove who gave the swindle polish when to great applause on television he claimed that we’ve all “had enough of experts.”  A very useful tactic to make good voters see conspiracies behind every fact-based argument. Add to the list Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davies, Liam Fox, Aaron Banks, Ian Duncan Smith, Dominic Cummings, Daniel Hannan, Matthew Eliot, John Redwood, Paul Dacre, Nick Timothy, Fiona Hall – and the Queen of them all Theresa May, who does not exactly resemble Mrs Trunchbull but might just as well be when she insinuates that supporters of an open England trading with the EU are “Citizens of Nowhere”. In the rear-guard is Comrade Corbyn and followers trying to give the biggest swindle in British history some kind of left-wing legitimacy.

In the meantime and in a frantic effort to maintain the swindle they continue to use their complicit pals in the right-wing media to peddle their sweet-nothings into the ears of an increasingly worried and increasingly questioning British public. Johnson’s piece in The Telegraph, “My Vision for a bold, thriving Britain enabled by Brexit” is a classic case in point. His comforting and soothing words of enduring success and huge dividends are not unlike Wormwood’s slick assurances to prospective buyer’s of his dodgy goods.

Fear not. The hour of reckoning is nigh for Farages’ Goon’s Army of snake-oil swindlers. As is inevitable with all cons the truth is not far behind them now. Winston Churchill famously once said “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In June 2016 the truth was still getting dressed as the swindler’s galloped towards the Referendum’s finishing line. The truth is fully dressed now and is within spitting distance of the lie.

Opinion polls may not be changing much – for now – but already we see doubt beginning to set in. See what this family in Wales say about their voting decisions before and after the referendum. In 2016 the daughter, in her twenties, wanted to stay in the EU. The mother was undecided. The Grandmother wanted out. They were asked recently if they’d changed their minds? The answer: not really but concern about the accuracy of the promises is beginning to set in. The daughter is immigrating to Canada instead of continental Europe, the mother remains confused and the Grandmother has not changed her mind. The one thing they can all agree on, however, is that they lack information.

“I didn’t realise it was going to be so difficult to get out. Mainly because we weren’t given the information that we needed. It’s been a lot more complicated then any lay person ever expected.”

“There’s too much conflict everywhere there’s no need for it.”

The British voter is not stupid – when they see what a con Brexit is they will seek redress and hold these lying politicians to account. Do these con-artists worry about what awaits them when the British voter, like the family featured above, realise they’ve all been swindled out of their savings, their pensions and their future by convincing rogues? Do Farage and Johnson wake up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat imagining what awaits them when voters who placed their trust in their false assurances come to realise they voted for chaos, conflict and disorder not an orderly, beneficial and prosperous exit from the EU?

At the end of Matilda the Wormwoods’ flee to Spain with all their goods and chattels happy to abandon Matilda to the delightful Miss Honey. When Roald Dahl wrote Matilda in 1988 crooks, like Wormwood, were able to flee to Spain to avoid British justice. Thanks to the EU’s European Arrest Warrant they no long can … which rather begs the question where will our snivelling politicians flee to when the truth catches up with them? Perhaps Putin’s delightful Russia?

Ladies and gentleman just as a buying customer has a right of redress if they were conned into buying a shoddy, second-hand banger from a dodgy second-hand car dealership like Wormwood’s – you the British voter – still have the right to change your mind, demand your money back (what is left of it) and hold these low-rate politicians to account. Don’t let them escape to Russia with your money and your future. Once they’ve disappeared it will be hard for the long arm of the law to catch up with them. Demand change now and support campaigns to reverse the Farage-Johnson con whilst you still can.

Write to your MP – tell them you’ve changed your mind and you want your money back.

Remain in the EU and don’t become a victim of Vote Leave’s Scam!