Gosh, things are hotting up. In the last 48 hours both David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn have made fools of themselves in public, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has had an article in the Times urging people to vote Remain in order to contribute to the management of the EU migration problem (in which, by the way, the lone sane voice of Britain has been ignored), and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has advised EU heads of government to abandon their “Utopian dreams” of ever-closer union, because it is quite obviously alienating voters across the continent.
In his trying appearance on a Sky TV Q & A, during one of the brief interstices in which he was not being savaged and laughed at by the studio audience, Cameron referred to the strange bed-fellows that the campaign has made, and mentioned that the non-Establishment Corbyn and Greens were both on his side, as though this were some sort of sober coalition of the commonsensical against the madness of Brexit. In fact both the Greens and Old, Marxist Labour are in favour of the EU because it has demonstrably been very bad news for everything they hate – enterprise, economic growth, parliamentary democracy, prosperity. The alliance is one that any Conservative prime minister should repudiate, just as the Leave camp has decently distanced itself from the offer of support from Marine Le Pen.
But the hero of the hour is surely Donald Tusk. If a European grandee had made such a statement 20 years ago, and had had his way, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Now, I am by trade a journalist, not a politician, and so not prone to monomaniacal vanity. I realise it is extremely unlikely that Mr Tusk was moved, in his speech the other day to ministers in Luxembourg, by the blog I posted on May 12th. But it’s as if he was. I refer you, even if you’ve already read it, to the one entitled “Pulling out of the EU is our best shot at saving Europe”. I’m not going to repeat myself here. It’s bad enough working for nothing, slumming it in cyberspace with my can of spray-paint directed at an infinite wall, without having to do it twice.
But at last a high-ranking Eurocrat has had the guts to state the obvious, and here I’m not quoting him, but inferring the gist of his message; “You guys had better get over your starry-eyed obsession with creating a new nation called Europe, because Joe Public ain’t buying it. You’re not diminishing his love of his own national democracies, you’re reviving it, and if you stamp out the local democratic voice it will take to the barricade and the petrol-bomb instead. We’re going to lose the UK, the far-right and far-left are on the march all over the continent, Hollande and Merkel are on their way out with their replacement up for grabs, Greece is now dependent on its black market just to function on the streets, Austria’s presidency was snatched from the far-right by a whisker of dubious postal votes, and all you can come up with as a solution is more and faster integration. Wake up and smell the coffee!”
And Mr Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland and an academic historian, knows what happens when repression causes reaction. In his own country a popular anti-Soviet movement was beaten down by a pro-Soviet establishment on its last legs in 1981, with the help of Russian troops in Polish uniforms – unlike 1968 in what was then Czechoslovakia, when they wore their own.
But it is a repeat of 1968 that looms. All it will take is a heat-wave, and the water-cannon will be out again on the streets of Paris and Marseilles, Berlin and Munich, Athens, Rome, Madrid… (If I were Vladimir Putin I’d be planning to catch the wave with organised pro-Russian demonstrations in Lithuania, the popular reaction to which would necessitate a “peace-keeping” intervention by Russian tanks, just to test the steel of Nato, and prove that the EU is spineless.) But again Britain will catch a milder form of the flu, just voting Brexit and enjoying a peaceful, constitutional change of prime minister and cabinet. The same thing happened in the aftermath of 1848, and indeed 1918.
But will Mr Tusk have his way? It seems horribly unlikely (see that previous post). So brace yourselves for another 1968, only without any of that nonsense about flower-power and free love. And brace yourselves, also, for Britain being blamed, even though it will all be the fault of the Eurocrats, because in their eyes it will be all our fault for re-establishing the pre-eminence in European politics of that dangerous, damaging thing called democracy.