EU Referendum: who will speak officially for 'Out'?
As might have been expected, the reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement of an In/Out referendum on UK membership of the EU has divided opinion - among both sceptics and philes; politicians, economists, journalists and bloggers. Some say it is a watershed moment in British political history; others that it's a ruse, a sham, a bribe simply to increase David Cameron's chances of re-election in 2015 (not to mention a complete deflection from the whole 'gay marriage' saga about to be unleashed upon Parliament).
All of this was entirely predictable: we've been lied to for 40 years, so it's really no surprise that the Father of Lies should be aroused to crush the glimmer of national salvation. But let us be clear about one thing: UK membership of the EEC was ratified by referendum of the people in 1975: it can only be undone by a further referendum. David Cameron has now promised that referendum, and only he is ever likely to be in a position to deliver on that promise.
You may not trust him because of his previous 'cast iron guarantee' on the Lisbon Treaty, but there were complex reasons for that U-turn, not least the post-ratification context of the 2010 general election. Do not forget that he pledged to take his MEPs out of the federalist EPP grouping in the European Parliament, and he delivered on that. A bit later than promised, certainly, but he delivered. Nigel Farage will not be prime minister in 2015. Neither will Nick Clegg. The choice will be between the Conservatives - who will bring draft legislation to re-negotiate with the EU, and a manifesto commitment to a referendum - and Labour, who yesterday appeared to rule out both.
You may loathe Cameron and despise the Conservatives. You may not trust or believe either, with very good reason. But if you really want to act in the national interest in order to have a hope of restoring national sovereignty and our ancient liberties, you will need to hold your nose in 2015 and vote Tory.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will campaign for the 'In' side. And that is an entirely honourable position, notwithstanding that his 'In' appears not to be contingent on the success or otherwise of his re-negotiated settlement. But let us be clear, if that settlement does not include - as a minimum - repatriated control over borders, fishing, employment, welfare and social policy, justice and human rights, then there cannot be the 'flexibility' he demands. And that will mean that David Cameron will have failed in his negotiations. And that will be more likely to incline the people to vote 'Out'.
Except that the Government, Church, Crown, BBC, Guardian, FT and the entire Establishment will be pouring their time, money and concerted effort into the 'In' campaign. They will be slick, organised and professional. The Prime Minister will campaign alongside the Leader of the Opposition (and the 'third party' LibDems), and the media will fawn at their statesmanlike feet, lapping up every word of their economic obfuscation and political lies. But at least their campaign of deception will be united, and the BBC will know whom to call when they want a spokesperson to argue passionately, intelligently an knowledgeably for the 'In' side.
But who will speak for 'Outers'? Seriously, who will answer the phone for the 'Out' campaign? UKIP? The Democracy Movement? Nigel Farage MEP? The Freedom Association? Dan Hannan MEP? Douglas Carswell MP? The European Foundation? Bill Cash MP? Dr Richard North? Open Europe? Better Off Out? The Bruges Group? The Express? The People's Pledge? Conservatives Against a Federal Europe? Global Vision? The Campaign for an Independent Britain? Peter Bone MP? Mrs Bone?
You see the problem. While the 'Inners' will be disciplined, coordinated and united in their quest, the 'Outers' consist of a ragbag of 'swivel-eyed nutters', 'right-wing xenophobes', 'eccentric little-Englanders', not to mention the 'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists'. And (here's the important point) most of them simply can't stand the sight of each other. There's backbiting, distrust and an entire dung-heap of mutual loathing.
If the 'Outers' are to have any chance of winning in 2017, there needs to be cohesive planning and preparation for victory. But 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 has been heard to criticise the arch proponent of 'Better Off Out' Douglas Carswell MP - for having 'extreme views' on the EU. And His Grace won't go into what Dr North thinks of Dan Hannan, or speculate on what Mrs Bone dreams about Nigel Farage.
As far as the 'Outers' are concerned, 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. The BBC simply won't have a clue whom to phone at which legally-constituted organisation to ensure that the contrary view is expressed fairly and impartially.
We've seen it all before, and very recently. We were told time and again before the AV referendum that there was a ‘progressive majority’ in favour of electoral reform; that the 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 have demanded a referendum, which has now been proposed. Despite the chronic divisions in the ‘Out’ 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.
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 have long demanded a referendum are not already planning, plotting, scheming, strategising and preparing for victory. Instead, as seen on this blog yesterday, there is cynicism, apathy, contempt and distrust. Where is the media onslaught of the beneficial consequences of our leaving the EU? 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 defeat, let us hear talk of ‘Freedom’, 'Democracy', ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Britain in the World’.
Yet getting even that unified message out of anti-EU organisations is like herding cats. The Europhile Establishment is vastly more experienced and far more advanced in strategic thinking. The 'Outers' need to meet immediately, bury their differences, swallow their pride and dispense with their egos. God forbid that a self-appointed elite might already have conspired in secret to determine the future course, and presumed to decide among themselves who will speak officially on behalf of all 'Outers'. Such unilateralism can only serve to entrench obstinate positions and perpetuate the chronic divisions. If the Church of England has to step in to chair a summit of peace, reconciliation and cooperation, His Grace is ready and willing.