Just to start with, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the two leading conservative supporters of Brexit, are both political columnists. Johnson, a former mayor of London who was famously pro-business and pro-immigration, is still paid to write a weekly column for the pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph. Gove, formerly of the Times, is married to a columnist on the pro-Brexit Daily Mail. I am not objecting to their transition from newspapers to politics, just pointing out that neither is accurately described as poor, provincial or anti-establishment. Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, is a former commodity broker who doesn’t look like he’s starving either.
The newspaper editors and proprietors who backed the loudly anti-elitist Brexit campaign are even more well-heeled. On the eve of voting day, the Daily Mail ran this headline: “Lies. Greedy Elites. Or a great future outside a broken, dying Europe: If you believe in Britain, vote Leave.” The Daily Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, earned £2.4 million pounds in 2014. Its proprietor, Viscount Rothermere (a.k.a. Jonathan Harmsworth), is worth £$1.21 billion, according to Forbes, a sum which does not make him a victim of global free trade. I could tell the same story about the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun (voting day headline: “Be-Leave!”) and the Daily Express, whose owner, Richard Desmond, donated 1 million pounds to the U.K. Independence party in 2015.
By contrast, the libertarian and free-market journalists and businessmen who opposed the E.U., and have done so for many years, are not hypocrites.