Several years ago I had the chance to go to the United States with a Labour Party group to canvass for Barack Obama in his re-election campaign.
It seemed like an attractive idea, but I decided against. For one thing I wasn’t a fan of the hero worship of Obama that many engaged in at that time. Also though, I felt that I would be an imposter there, that it was really none of my business, that it was the Americans’ election and not for me to rock up and tell them on how they should vote.
Colleagues told me that the reception on the doorstep was generally favourable and the Americans didn’t mind. But I was uncomfortable. I felt I would be an interloper. So I didn’t go.
Roll on a few years and Obama had no such compunction about coming the other way and lecturing the British on how we should vote in our EU referendum. Indeed in April 2016 our Prime Minister David Cameron placed a nice presidential podium in front of him to do so in front of a salivating press pack.
He didn’t disappoint, saying that the United Kingdom would be ‘at the back of the queue’ when it came to trade talks if it voted for Brexit. The Guardian gleefully reported that it was “an intervention that delighted remain campaigners” while its columnist Jonathan Freedland said, “It was the Vote Leavers’ worst nightmare" and that, “At a stroke, he had crushed not only a core part of the leavers’ economic argument.”
This story seems to say 6k Russian tweets on 23 June and 39k on 24 June. Not totally efficient attempt to swing #EUref https://t.co/kQ20x6EKG1— John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) 15 November 2017
I'm more concerned about the David Joneses of this world, who manage to build up a large, trusting following over a long period of time. No doubt, this account would have helped drag some people over to the Brexit side during the months before the vote by helping build up a weight of force behind the Brexit cause that mainstream civil society was failing to provide for the most part.