‘Bollocks to Brexit’. That’s the slogan on the front of the Lib Dem’s manifesto, which is officially launched this evening in east London.
It isn’t the usual sort of language used in a formal document by a political party, but these are not usual times. These are desperate times. The most pressing issue facing any of us in this country is that B-word – no not bollocks, but Brexit. If it goes ahead it will be the most damaging thing for us, our economy and our children in generations.
The issue is far graver than a petty linguistic debate. People are getting their knickers in the twist over the use of a word that is officially categorised by Ofcom as ‘medium level’ of offensiveness. What that means is that it can’t be used on TV or radio before the watershed.
Well, bollocks to the watershed. Anyone too young to stay up beyond the watershed isn’t old enough to vote anyway. The message is not about creating good PR. It’s about stopping Brexit – the most pressing issue in politics right now.
I don’t just say all this because I’m part of the Liberal Democrats. (I’m one of the MEP candidates for London). The slogan is simply being transparent and reflects the party’s main policy: stop Brexit.
There is a more formal version of the manifesto which has the words ‘stop Brexit’ on it too. But in my view it didn’t even need to do this. It isn’t a four letter word and I can’t see it being offensive. It even has a nice literate ring to it.
I don’t come from a political background. I come from a business background. So my reasons for believing in the ‘bollocks to Brexit’ mantra is nothing to do with towing a political line. I know through my own experience how damaging Brexit will be for business.
In 1980 I started a travel company. I started selling coach tickets from a kiosk in Earls Court. I worked hard and gradually I built that business into a European big player. That company became eBookers. Sixteen years later I sold it for millions. The only reason I managed to build this business was because I had access to a large market in Europe.
Back in the ’90s Europe hadn’t been part of the Maastricht Treaty for long so small businesses were wary about doing business with Europe – it was too new. But I embraced it. Because my market grew, so did my business.
I am one of the few people in politics today who truly understand business. I managed a FTSE250 company. This sort of experience is what Westminster lacks. The Conservatives call themselves the ‘party of business’ but as the events of the last two years have shown, they have been anything but. The continuing kicking of the can down the road has caused uncertainty for business. uncertainly is a cancer to business.
Last week the OECD published figures on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) last year. It showed that FDI into the UK was (£48billion), down by a third from the previous year because of Brexit uncertainty.
This is hardly surprising. The business world has been given conflicting information. Even our own trade secretary Liam Fox vastly underestimated how difficult it would be to get trade deals. Shortly after the referendum in June 2016 he predicted we would make 40 new trade deals over a cup of tea only to realise this couldn’t be done while we were still part of the EU.
If business is bad for the UK, it will lead to job cuts, government spending cuts and rising living costs. Not good for any of us.
The ‘bollocks to Brexit’ slogan may seem flippant. But behind the words is a serious manifesto, not just about stopping Brexit but essentially setting out a blueprint for what the UK could achieve if Brexit was stopped.
Last year Boris was reported to have said ‘f*ck business’ at a diplomatic gathering when asked about the effects of Brexit on business. Now that’s flippant. We are using a milder word, and in the context of a serious well-thought through argument.
Besides, in a digital world where we are bombarded with online content, it’s often said that people don’t read beyond the headlines any more. Which gives all the more backing for headline which states in the most simplistic and bold terms exactly what it means.
Dinesh Dhamija is an entrepreneur and a Lib Dem MEP candidate for London