Angry at the “lies” being peddled by the Brexit camp, former prime minister John Major, who faced much EU-related turmoil during his tenure, on Sunday came down heavily on partymen for the claims cited to leave the bloc, calling them “awful, depressing and squalid”.
As commentators saw the campaign before the June 23 referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union as a race to show who lies better, Major, who once handled key EU-related issues, said he was “angry” at the way unfounded claims were being made.
He told BBC on the widely watched Andrew Marr Show that the Vote Leave’s claim of 350 million pounds being sent to Brussels every week was “fundamentally dishonest”.
He said: “And on the subject that they have veered towards, having lost the economic argument, of immigration, I think their campaign is verging on the squalid”.
“I am angry at the way the British people are being misled, this is much more important than a general election, this is going to affect people, their livelihoods, their future, for a very long time to come and if they are given honest straightforward facts and they decide to leave, then that is the decision the British people take.
“But if they decide to leave on the basis of inaccurate information... then I regard that as deceitful,” Major added.
He went on to lay into leading lights of the Vote Leave camp, particularly Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith (“serially disloyal”). He ridiculed claims of Johnson and Gove that the National Health Service would be safe under them.
“The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python,” Major said, and called Johnson a “court jester” but not a serious politician.
Johnson and Gove dismissed Major’s remarks, and insisted that the Conservative party would come together after the referendum.
There have been concerns that the EU campaign has become more an intra-Conservative tussle than a wider referendum.