Decades at the top of the BBC made Gavin Esler one of the country’s most well-known and most-trusted journalists. Having left the corporation last year, he stood as a candidate in last spring’s European elections for the London region as one of the most high-profile non-politicians representing Change UK.
Although he failed to become an MEP, he was outspoken in his criticism of Brexit and the decay of honesty he believes led to it. Now, Esler has distilled his frustration into a short new book, Brexit Without the Bullshit, a summary of the facts and statistics about the EU he believes were ignored or dismissed during the referendum campaign.
Esler had been attracted to Change UK out of his frustration at the tradition party tribalism, and in his book, he scorns both sides of the campaign for presenting misleading statistics and making false promises. Just because Leave won, Esler believes, the Remain camp cannot be allowed to forget its part in spreading misinformation.
2016 was a low point, but the three years of Brexit negotiations which followed have not only failed to produce a workable deal but have only continued to damage the country’s respect for truth. In the European election campaign in which Esler stood, Nigel Farage’s new ‘Brexit’ party only had a name, and no manifesto or coherent policy, except to ‘leave’ and do so as ‘cleanly’ as possible. The lack of accountability Esler rails against is getting worse, not better.
The primary strength of the book, therefore, is that it looks to the future, and doesn’t simply moan about the dire state of the referendum campaign, as many Remainers are accused of doing. 'This book is not about endless arguments over Brexit,' Esler writes. 'It is about facts which will mould the future of our country.' With a possible second referendum on the cards, the Remain side, of which Esler is a passionate member, cannot afford to make the same mistakes twice.
And if there is no way out of leaving, the consequences for the truth can only be grave. Throughout the book, Esler is forthright about 'the Brexit we will get' having failed to heed the warnings and the political reality before we voted. 'For good or ill,' the facts presented in his book, 'are now vital to understand the possible shape of a new United Kingdom.' This new country may well exclude Northern Ireland, ignored and then lied about by the Brexiters, as well as Esler’s home turf of Scotland.
Brexit Without the Bullshit styles itself as ‘the book Nigel Farage doesn’t want you to read.’ As a politics student and as someone who witnessed Esler’s passion at Change UK events on multiple occasions, I am already familiar with the arguments and statistics he lays out. But this book is also the ideal read for someone who is curious or confused about Brexit and wants some clarity on the details.
With a Boris Johnson premiership and possible Brexit-themed general election on the cards, it is more important than ever that we turn the tide against factual ignorance and attempt to better educate our fellow voters. Brexit without the Bullshit is the ideal aid in this mighty task, authored not only by someone who – fortunately – isn’t tainted by the status of a professional politician but who more importantly believes that facts are still the best weapons in the fight to preserve our national unity.