I’d hate to be a Negative Nancy, or a fun sponge of any description, but there is no way in hell the Leave camp are going to win the EU referendum. Like with Scottish independence and the Alternative Vote, we will opt for the status quo. Fear and small C conservatism will triumph over proper, Thatcherite Conservatism, and we will continue reluctantly plodding towards the United States of Europe, like lost lambs to the slaughterhouse.
If I’m sick to death of this debate, being a Eurosceptic saddo who resents going out on Saturday nights incase I’m too hungover for Marr, I dread to think how bored the rest of the population must be. The endless stream of statistics, counter statistics, and counter-counter statistics, resonate about as much as Jeremy Corbyn’s rhetoric does in Buckinghamshire. I only hope that the next 36 days pass quickly so we can skip to the next chapter of the Tory civil war, Cameron’s resignation and the inevitable Boris V George cat fight.
If the referendum had been fought on logical arguments and issues such as democracy, accountability and our new best friend ‘sovereignty’, as opposed to faceless statics, I don’t doubt that the passion of the Leave campaigners could have defeated the other sides’ balance sheet approach.
Instead of fighting ‘you will be X hundred pounds worse of per year’ with ‘the EU costs us X million every week’, the Brexiteers’ should have just held there hands up from the beginning and said ‘Yes, growth may be stunted for a few years, and yes, the markets will probably have a massive bitch fit, but in 25 years, will a fat balding man from Luxembourg be determining the price you pay for Tampons?’ Or something to that effect.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And it is with a very heavy heart that I have succumbed to such a degree of defeatism. The Leave side have thrown the kitchen sink at this campaign, and then some. They’ve had Boris boris-ing around with pasties, bananas and speeches about knickers. They’ve adopted the nauseating ‘save our NHS’ rhetoric of the left in a bid to get socialists on board. They made Michael Gove vaguely likeable again, and up until now, they even succeeded in putting a sock in Nigel Farage. So regardless of the result on June 23rd, the majority of leave campaigners (alright, maybe not George Galloway) can hold their heads high and be proud of the campaign they’ve conducted. I wonder how many ‘remainians’ could wholeheartedly say the same.
If we threw the kitchen sink at this referendum, Cameron and the Remain camp threw the entire bathroom, the plumping system and the B&Q removal van. I can’t be the only person who’s been left exhausted by the relentless onslaught of reports from ‘independent’ economic bodies, with their indistinguishable acronyms and reputations we’re supposed to be impressed by, and by the conveyor belt of establishment figures queuing up to tell us that we’re all going to die of TB if we vote to leave. If it’s not Barrack Obama one day, it’s the governor of the Bank of England, the Pope, or one of the 3 living ex Prime Ministers the next (not that being alive is actually a requirement; judging by the Mirrors’ shameless “Thatcher/Churchill would have voted to stay in the EU – says advisor who made them coffee once” headlines).
The blatant misuse of public money & government resources have stretched the term ‘democracy’ to its breaking point. To be honest, it was always inconceivable that Vote Leave, just one strand of the splintered Brexit cause whose funding depends on some bloke that owns JML (yes, the one from the adverts), could defeat the will of the world’s 5th most powerful Government, all its machinery and its £600 billion a year income. In this David-and-Goliathian battle, the fact that the poll difference has rarely ventured beyond 10% should be celebrated as an achievement in itself. I hope to god I am wrong, but unfortunately, a gold star for effort – or 12 – was never going to take us out of the EU.
If Cameron was ever remotely serious about settling the European question within the Conservative Party, let alone across the country, as many of his successors have tried and failed to do, he should have played a fair game. Had his government adopted the PURDAH rules, and made at least a token attempt at neutrality (i.e not spending 9 million quid of tax payers money on a single leaflet) the inevitable vote to remain could have been accepted. Eurosceptic Tories would have had no choice but to tuck their tails between their legs & literally ‘put up or shut up’, as the people ‘would have spoken’ (or whatever it is lame duck US presidents say after poor mid-term elections).
If 2014s ‘once in a generation’ vote on Scottish independence, which abided by PURDAH and was fair in the eyes of all those except the cyber Nats & Nick Robinson, could be spun as illegitimate, then it’ll only be a matter of days before there are serious calls for a second referendum this time around. Far from settling the question mark over our EU membership and the nations post-imperial identity crisis, all this vote has done is inflame the anti-European sentiment at home and abroad, destroy the Tory party, and therefore increase Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of becoming prime minister by default. Yikes.
So if the pollsters are to be trusted, the EU referendum, once the holy grail of Eurosceptics, has been reduced to little more than an audition for the next Conservative leadership election, and a couples retreat exercise for the Labour Party.
Therefore the best outcome we can hope for, assuming a British exit is off the table, is for David Cameron to bring forward his date of departure, and for the smoothest possible transition of power to a Eurosceptic candidate, who will insure that our vote to Remain won’t be taken as a ringing endorsement of federalism & ‘ever closer union’ in Brussels. In short; we must continue to do what we do best; be a thorn in the EU’s ever expanding side, lead its 1 man awkward squad, and generally be the John Redwood of the European Council.
When you consider the fact that it took two referendums to gain enough support for a devolved parliament in Scotland, and a further two for one in Wales, the idea that we would vote for total independence in a single vote does invite us to take a big leap of faith. So though it is a comparison few Eurosceptics will welcome, we Brexiteers may prove be to be this referendums answer to Napoleon. Though we have lost this battle, we may yet win the war.