Bring on the re­match

The New European - - Agenda - Alas­tair Camp­bell

A bits and bobs col­umn this week… time to show I can still do the more tabloidy thing, not just the vast screeds that have be­come my cus­tom here.

First bit is about the won­der­ful Scot­tish ac­tor, Brian Cox. I spent Satur­day morn­ing with him on Prim­rose Hill in North Lon­don mak­ing a short film, the third he has made for the Peo­ple’s Vote cam­paign. There is some­thing spe­cial about see­ing close-up, at work, peo­ple who are re­ally, re­ally good at what they do.

He wasn’t act­ing, not in the strictest sense, but he was per­form­ing. We dis­cussed the gen­eral ap­proach over break­fast, then he penned his own words, then off we went to brave the el­e­ments.

“We have reached the point of no re­turn. But there is a re­turn. We can re­turn it to the peo­ple. The Peo­ple’s Vote.” Very or­di­nary words. But if you’re lucky enough to be at the Ex­cel Cen­tre, in Lon­don, on Sun­day, when his short film will open our lat­est rally, you will see that what a great ac­tor can do is give a power to words that the words on the page alone do not carry. Does any­one roll an ‘r’ with quite the same ef­fect, as Brian Cox?

Now for a Bob. It was for­eign sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt who first un­veiled the worst acro­nym of mod­ern times – the Bobs, peo­ple who are ‘bored of Brexit’ – and sug­gested that we should get on with Brexit to end their bore­dom. I have been try­ing hard to think of a more fatu­ous rea­son to sup­port Theresa May’s deal. I have failed.

I usu­ally watch Burn­ley away games from the away end, or from the press box where I do the co-com­men­tary for the club web­site. But at Crys­tal Palace last week, I was happy to ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion of Palace chair­man Steve Parish, to join him and his girl­friend Su­sanna Reid for lunch in the board­room. Part of the at­trac­tion was that at ev­ery Palace-burn­ley game in re­cent years, he and I have had re­ally good ar­gu­ments about Brexit. In­deed, my place card had me down as “Alas­tair ‘Peo­ple’s Vote’ Camp­bell”.

He is what I would call a real Brex­i­teer, much closer to the Boris John­son/ja­cob Rees-mogg/nigel Farage vi­sion of Brexit than to the nei­ther-in-nor-out ver­sion of May’s. I know that in these so­cial me­dia al­go­rith­mised days, we are all driven into our own ever-de­creas­ing cir­cles of opin­ion, so that we end up talk­ing to our­selves and those who share our views. But I like seek­ing out op­pos­ing views on Brexit, not least to try to per­suade. It’s why I spent a few hours out and about with Rees-mogg on Wed­nes­day, tele­vi­sion cam­eras in tow. I didn’t imag­ine I would win Steve Parish over to Re­main, but I thought I might get him to see that a Peo­ple’s Vote could be the only route to the hard Brexit he wants to see. But no, he could see no demo­cratic le­git­i­macy in a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum at all. Work in progress.

I had more luck with his daugh­ter Is­abel, who I hope to see at the Ex­cel on Sun­day, with her “my dad is wrong about Brexit” ban­ner. Should we win the fight for a Peo­ple’s Vote, wrong dads and grandads could be­come a big theme.

Two days later, Su­sanna Reid was back in the Good Morn­ing Bri­tain stu­dio along­side Piers Mor­gan, in­ter­view­ing my old boss Tony Blair. There are plenty of peo­ple who imag­ine that sim­ply by say­ing the word “Iraq”, they some­how jus­tify the no­tion that Tony should never be heard again. It is part of the same ever-de­creas­ing cir­cles ap­proach to de­bate I men­tion above. And I know there are some on my own side of the de­bate who look at him and say “right mes­sage, wrong mes­sen­ger”.

But if you an­a­lyse how we have got from where we were on June 24, 2016, to where we are to­day, with the chances of a Peo­ple’s Vote way higher than they were, that has been driven by lots and lots of peo­ple do­ing and say­ing what­ever they can to fight for what they be­lieve. The idea that a three time-win­ning prime min­is­ter, with a vast un­der­stand­ing of pol­i­tics, par­lia­ment, cam­paigns, Europe and change in the world should not be among them is, frankly, lu­di­crous.

TB came un­der some pro-re­main friendly fire on so­cial me­dia, as have I, for sug­gest­ing that a hard Brexit (which is not the same as no-deal, and the two are be­com­ing dan­ger­ously con­fused) should be on the bal­lot pa­per in a Peo­ple’s Vote. I am as pas­sion­ate about stay­ing in the EU as any­one. But I do not see how it can be demo­cratic for the choice in a Peo­ple’s Vote to be be­tween a deal com­pre­hen­sively re­jected by par­lia­ment, as May’s will be, and a sta­tus quo ante re­jected in a ref­er­en­dum. I feel no dif­fi­culty in mak­ing the demo­cratic case for Re­main be­ing on the bal­lot pa­per, and have done so here many times. But those who be­lieve in a real Brexit must have a gen­uine op­tion to vote for too.

“What if they win?” asked one dis­grun­tled Re­mainer. I sug­gested it was time to see the world as it is, not as we want it to be. “What would you like the vote to be… Re­main ver­sus Stay?”

At­tor­ney gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox is emerg­ing as one of the few char­ac­ters in a gov­ern­ment and a par­lia­ment sadly lack­ing in them. His rich, boom­ing voice is an im­por­tant part of that. In­deed a voice, its tone, tim­bre and ac­cent, is an im­por­tant part of any po­lit­i­cal pro­file. Cox’s gives a sense of what pol­i­tics must have been like in the pre-tech times when speak­ers had to com­mand not just noisy par­lia­ments but some­times vast crowds with­out the sup­port of mi­cro­phones.

But though it is pos­si­ble to rise to the top these days with a soft voice, it is still a hand­i­cap to have a weak one. An­gela Merkel has a soft voice. But it is strong. Ditto Vladimir Putin. Ditto Ja­cob ReesMogg. Bill Clin­ton, one of the finest or­a­tors of mod­ern times, was of­ten at his best when speak­ing softly, qui­etly. But the voice was al­ways strong.

I keep read­ing that if Theresa May falls, a choice be­tween Sa­jid Javid and Jeremy Hunt might emerge as the cen­tre ground, late con­vert to Brexit can­di­date to re­place her. Both need to un­der­stand they start with a con­sid­er­able hand­i­cap. Get work­ing on the vo­cal chords, guys.

Non-brexit bit to end… I do a monthly in­ter­view for GQ mag­a­zine and this month’s is with box­ing pro­moter Ed­die Hearn, who looks after An­thony Joshua. I can re­mem­ber as a child be­ing al­lowed to stay up late, into the night, to watch big fights dur­ing the Muham­mad Ali era. We are def­i­nitely back in a new ‘stay up to watch the fight’ age. Joshua has made heavy­weight box­ing glam­orous again – in­deed he was a re­cent GQ cover – while Tyson Fury’s back story re­minds us box­ing has of­ten been a path­way out of dark times for trou­bled peo­ple. It is bril­liant that two of the three names in the process of re­viv­ing the sport’s most im­por­tant divi­sion are Bri­tish, and so dif­fer­ent. My son Calum was lucky enough to be in the US for the fight, and lucky enough to meet Fury after the event. Calum and I have both had is­sues with al­co­hol and men­tal health, so while Joshua is the win­ner in the glam­our stakes, over­all Fury wins on points with us – as in­deed he should have done in the fight against Deon­tay Wilder. Bring on the re­match… oops, Brexit squeezed in after all.

Photo: Getty Im­ages

BAT­TLE: Tyson Fury and Deon­tay Wilder in the fifth round of their drawn WBC heavy­weight ti­tle clash in Los An­ge­les

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