What if an EU referendum went the same way as AV?
With news that there are advanced plans afoot for our mass desexualisation, the establishment of ‘gay marriage’, and the construction of thousands more grotesque (and useless) windmills on our green and pleasant land – all, His Grace is sure you will agree – priority concerns as the economy melts down and civilisation crumbles around our feet, it transpires that another Conservative MP has put his head above the parapet and demanded a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. His Grace has lost count of those who are getting restless or repenting and recanting their previous Europhile delusion.
While ConHome is jubilant, and the grassroots doubtless urging Mr Pritchard to have a chat with 1922 Chairman Graham Brady in an attempt to persuade him to come out as well, His Grace would like to ask an inconvenient question.
Say the Prime Minister also recants and grants the much longed-for referendum on the EU. What then?
Where is the cohesive planning and preparation for victory? How do you propose to unite the disparate and disjunctive voices to pool their efforts and resources in the pursuit of a common objective? We have inter alia the Campaign for an Independent Britain, the Bruges Group, the Democracy Movement, the Better Off Out campaign, the European Foundation, The People's Pledge, The Freedom Association, Open Europe, Conservatives Against a Federal Europe, EU Referendum Blog, Global Vision...
And the reality is that the leaders and members of some of these groups thoroughly despise those who lead and support others, so much so that they are barely on speaking terms and regularly berate each other in their respective fora. Good grief, even UKIP can’t coalesce around a single political strategy, with its own (few) elected politicians resigning, defecting and demanding a change of leader. The anti-EU movement is defined by that to which it is antithetical: there is no unifying movement towards any positive vision, and that includes even the idea of a referendum. In truth, there are some very prominent individuals who are so unyielding in their infallible opinions and uncompromising in their dispositions that unity of purpose is an impossible ask: the contempt they have for others is palpable. Even the arch-Eurosceptic Bill Cash MP was recently heard to criticise the arch proponent of 'Better Off Out' Douglas Carswell MP - for having 'extreme views' on the EU! We not only have the People's Front of Judaea and the Judaean People's front, but the front and rear of the people faffing around about semantics in Samaria while the occupation and destruction of Judaea continues apace.
We were told time and again before the AV referendum that there was a ‘progressive majority’ in favour of electoral reform; that people wanted change, a different politics, a fairer system, a more democratic method of electing their representatives. After decades of wailing and wandering in the wilderness, the Liberal Democrats got their manna and quail.
But they blew the holy grail.
The pro-AV campaign was disunited, poorly articulated, badly led, painfully patronised and hopelessly disorganised. Against all that, its generous and credible funding went absolutely nowhere.
Similarly, on the matter of an EU referendum, we are told time and again that in excess of 50 per cent of the nation would vote to leave the EU tomorrow. And so those who yearn for liberation continue to demand such a referendum. Despite the chronic divisions in the ‘withdrawal’ camp, the demand is still for this strategy – the success of which would be wholly contingent upon unity, charismatic leadership, creative strategy, credible patronage and very generous funding.
And Sir James Goldsmith is, very sadly, no longer with us.
The disparate, swivel-eyed, little-Englander, extremist, Right-Wing Withdrawalists would be up against the unified, enlightened at utterly reasonable voices of the entire Establishment – Government, BBC, Church (CofE and RC), and even the Monarchy itself.
Let us not forget that the 1975 referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the EEC was held at a time when previous polls had suggested a clear majority in favour of withdrawal. That poll was overturned by charismatic politicians, cross-party consensus, an unequally-funded campaign, clever marketing and the erosion of reason by omnipotent pro-EEC forces. We saw it again (and again) in Denmark over the Maastricht Treaty; in France over the Constitution for Europe; and in Ireland over the Lisbon Treaty. If ‘No’ is not an option, ‘Out’ becomes be an unthinkable heresy.
His Grace despairs, and cannot for the life of him work out why those who demand a referendum are not already planning, plotting, scheming, strategising and preparing for victory. Where is the media onslaught? Let us hear of falling taxes, reduced burdens on business, rising employment, increased standards of living, and a prosperous UK as part of EFTA, the Commonwealth and the free-trade world. Instead of deploying the language of military defeat - terms like ‘Out’, ‘Oppression’ and ‘Withdrawal’ - let us hear talk of ‘Freedom’, 'Democracy', ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Britain in the World’. Yet getting even that unified message out of anti-EU organisations would be like herding cats. The Europhile Establishment is vastly more experienced are far more advanced in such matters. Nick Clegg was quite simply not the man to lead the pro-AV campaign, and none better emerged. So, please, for God’s sake, stop banging on about a referendum until someone emerges who could win it.