Saturday, 20 February 2016

June 23rd: some reasons to feel very edgy

The phrase ‘strange bedfellows’ doesn’t really do justice to the oddballs lining up to support the call for the UK to leave the EU.

The eccentric and earnestly intellectual Justice Secretary Michael Gove teams up with Iain Duncan Smith – the self-styled ‘Quiet Man’ who had to be toppled as Tory leader some years ago in quite a noisy coup. They find themselves in the same camp as maverick Labour parliamentarian Kate Hoey, UKIP’s Nigel Farage and George Galloway, the former MP for Celebrity Big Brother.

If Boris de Pfeffel Johnson breaks his silence and say that he’s joining them, it would seem entirely fitting. The outgoing London Mayor would be the celebrity icing on the fruitcake.

Under normal circumstances, you’d have to bet that the campaign to ‘remain’ had a pretty good chance against this mob. Surely common sense will prevail and the public will rally around the mainstream politicians of all political parties who understand the importance of our involvement with the European Union?

But these are not normal times.

Last year, the Labour Party elected as its leader someone so desperately unsuited to the job that it finds itself languishing 14 points behind the Tories in some polls. Corbyn has opposed the EU and its precursor organisations at every stage of his career, so his Damascene conversion lacks any real credibility. This is reflected in his half-hearted contributions in which he bizarrely attacks David Cameron for failing to negotiate the transformation of Europe into a socialist utopia.

As a result of Labour’s incredible weakness right now, we are left in a frightening place. The best chance of a clear victory in the June 23rd referendum is if the public listens to David Cameron and follows his lead. Although I could never place my own confidence in a man of such patrician bluster and arrogance, polls do show that he seems to carry a lot of credibility with the public.

He has, however, made a big mistake by framing the referendum debate around the supposed ‘deal’ he’s managed to squeeze out of Europe.

We are not voting in the summer on whether the seven-year brake is a good thing or a bad thing. Neither are we deciding on whether we have been rescued from some mythical pressure to join the Euro. The vote is about whether the UK isolates itself from a world which is now completely interconnected. It is a choice over whether we want to retain influence or throw it away. And ultimately, it’s probably even a vote over whether we wish the UK to continue in its current form at all.

The piece of paper that Cameron clutches from Brussels can blow away in the wind. If it does, our economic and political future may take flight with it.

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