Popular novelist Robert Harris, author of such counterfactual bestsellers as ‘Fatherland’, which imagines the world after a Nazi victory, has applied the same methodology to last year’s EU referendum.
In this version of reality, Remainers woke up on 24th June to news of a 52-48 vote in their favour and posted on social media that they were very pleased, rather than trying to outdo each other with displays of lamentation and threats to move abroad.
Over the next few weeks and months Harris has them advance all the arguments they actually have in reality, saying that such a narrow victory wasn’t enough, and really a two-thirds majority was required for such a major decision. Moreover, they said one shouldn’t read too much into what the public thought on a particular day, so we ought to have a second vote a year or so later to see if we still felt the same way.
Finally, what about all those who didn’t vote? Maybe they wanted to leave the EU but for some reason never got around to saying so, in which case choosing to remain would fly in the face of what we imagine their wishes were.
This passage has caused much controversy amongst Remain-voting critics, one of whom said: ‘Don’t be ridiculous, I’m just saying all that because we lost. If we’d won, I’d have said ‘Thank God for that, now let’s never ask the ghastly plebs what they think about anything again. In fact, let’s not even have elections if we can help it’.’
The controversy has led to disappointing sales for the novel, though Harris pointed out that if you include in his tally all the people who didn’t buy any books at all, he’d be top of the bestseller lists. Some Leave supporters have described the whole scenario as fanciful as the vote was inevitable but Harris said: ‘Remain won, my book is a bestseller, get over it. And if you little snowflakes don’t stop whinging about it, I’ll write it on the side of a bus and then you’ll have to believe me.’