At last – Gove plays his Trump.

At last – Gove plays his Trump.

I gather that some readers of this blog have been posting comments about it on Facebook. But I don’t look at Facebook, partly because it is foreign, recent and popular zucker(a combination pretty much guaranteed to secure my disdain), partly because it made people much younger than me enormously rich (ditto), but also because it began as a tool of campus sexual harassment for the entertainment of grinning geeks whose idea of a good time consisted of an illicit pitcher of Bud Lite, and has got steadily more juvenile since then, whether as a vehicle for personal trivia or for unedited ranting. If your old college friends can’t be bothered even to send you an email, drop them and move on. And if you want to comment on this blog, please do it here. We might even get a discussion going that doesn’t involve photographs of your lunch.

And so to today’s news, which has been dominated by Michael Gove landing, along with a chap from Das Bild, an exclusive interview with Donald Trump. When I saw it this morning I thought “Wow! Michael’s back with a bang!”, and then immediately thought of Frost/Nixon. True, the Gove wilderness consisted of only a few months during which he did nothing more than represent his parliamentary constituency and write a weekly column in the Times, either of which on its own would be the high point of many a career. And Donald Trump is not a disgraced former president of the USA, but merely a president-elect who has sickened a vocal minority of his fellow-countrymen, and won the hearts of many more, by being a tactless, wise-cracking vulgarian. It’s still a hell of a come-back with a hell of a scoop.

And perhaps the best bit was Mr Trump’s stated intention of concluding a trade deal with Britain very soon and very quickly, in direct contradiction of the naked threat so courteously contributed to Project Fear by his predecessor less than a year ago. 

But that was always the trouble with Project Fear – it consisted entirely of threats so extravagant that hardly anybody believed them, and most of those who affected to were dissembling, merely adding the weighty words of this economist or that American president to the arsenal. Anybody who took a sober look at Britain would know that it wasn’t going to be frozen out of global trade as punishment for opting out of a failing economic and political experiment. That’s the kind of thing you do to genocidal dictatorships when you ought to be invading them.

So why did they do it? All those pontificating Remainers, I mean, the ones who knew full well that economic projections are guess-work and that incumbent politicians with their backs to the wall will say anything to salvage their credibility. Why? Surely they must have had some belief in Britain’s EU membership, some insight too counter-productively complex to be shared with the public? Or was it all just nest-feathering and sucking up to the prefects? The historian and Sunday Times columnist Niall Ferguson recently confessed that he had only supported Remain  – which he did repeatedly in print, forcefully, sneeringly and to millions – out of loyalty to his friends Dave and George. Can they really all have been like that?

Sadly, yes, they can, and they took a lot of honest, wavering folk with them, though mercifully not enough to win the day. And many of them and their converts are still at it, insulting their victorious opponents and railing against ever-mounting commonsense through the brats’ toy of social media. If I were you I’d pack it in with Facebook for good.

Vote Leave and back it up – here are your key arguments.

It is now less than nine hours until the polling stations open in the UK, and here I am in my home of Amsterdam with my wife and children, besieged by friendly but argumentative neighbours, whom I really like, all canvassing my opinion as to the likely outcome of the British referendum. This is a lefty-liberal, cosmopolitan city, at odds with the rest of its country – like most capitals – and they’re all in love with the EU, comfortable enough to regard their fleecing by Brussels on the pretext of propping up other countries, impoverished entirely by their membership of the Eurozone, as somehow “fair”. And they are in denial about even the short-term aims of the EU project. When I tell them that competitive advantages within the EU will be levelled – for example by removing their power to cut their own tax deals with multinationals, or even the Rolling Stones, who are based here – they scoff, and say “Oh, but that won’t happen”, even though it’s happening as we speak, under the new OECD/EU State Aid rules. This will make the Netherlands poorer, to nobody’s benefit, but they haven’t looked it up. They’d rather just take the soft, socially acceptable woolly line of co-operation and brotherhood. If the sale of their 17th Century houses could get them even a studio flat in Hampstead they’d fit right in.

So the line I give them is that, whether Vote Leave wins or loses on Thursday, we have done the peoples of Europe an enormous favour by holding this referendum, for it has brought the debate about the EU’s manifold failures, and the mad ambitions of its principal players, to the forefront of public discourse right across the continent. And they agree. It has to be a good thing, for the Eurocrats have escaped close public scrutiny for decades just by being so bloody boring. And in this regard I must acknowledge the contribution of my old friend and colleague Boris Johnson – not so much for lending his charmingly flawed flair and colour to this particular campaign, but for his work as Brussels Correspondent of the Telegraph 20 years ago, when his gift for engaging prose and his eye for a good gag regularly managed to get otherwise grindingly tedious stories about Europe onto the front page. 

For Europe isn’t boring any more. Everybody now gets the message that the future direction of the EU – even of whether it has one – is an urgent question that is generating a lot of heat all over the continent. And on Thursday, those of you with the time should be out on the streets canvassing for Vote Leave. 

I have done canvassing, I have run a political press campaign, and I have also overseen the briefings issued to canvassers by a national party machine (the Conservative Party, since you ask), so, although I have not been directly or officially involved in the Vote Leave campaign because I now live abroad, I offer here my personal take on the door-stepping for Thursday.

1) Fifth largest economy in the world, fourth greatest military power. It’s well worn, but can’t be repeated often enough (and Remain haven’t challenged it). The EU sells more to us than we do to it, and the disparity is widening, while our trade with the rest of the world is growing, but hampered by our EU membership. 20% of German cars are bought in Britain, and Audi, VW and BMW will not jeopardise that, no matter what the dead duck Merkel says.

2) We DO send £350 million a week to the EU, and £200 million comes back in ways we do not control, such as grants and subsidies targeted, as bribes for EU loyalty, at worthy projects we could support better ourselves. The remaining £150 million a week is still a hell of a lot of money, and disappears into the maintenance of a sham parliament with two vast buildings but no legislative powers, an army of bureaucrats, and outright fraud – £5 BILLION a year is unaccounted for, and no auditor has felt able to pass the EU’s accounts for 20 years. If you did that you’d be in prison.

3) The EU can take NO credit for peace in Europe. Its one big test was the Balkans conflict, in which it backed a genocidal dictator for the sake of a quiet life. It was NATO that resolved that mess, and NATO that has kept Europe safe from Russian aggression.

4) Vote Leave is NOT racist. It is not even reactionary. Mention Brexit MPs Tory Priti Patel, whose parents were Ugandan Asian immigrants, and Labour Gisela Stuart, who’s German, for heavens’ sake. It is not racist to protect a welfare and health system that is run by, and for, an incredibly ethnically mixed population against overloading to collapse. It is not racist to criticise Angela Merkel for initiating a policy that caused a flood of migrants in which genuine refugees, chancers and terrorists are indistinguishable because of the sheer rush and weight of numbers. Control of our borders is vital to the security of everyone who legitimately lives within them, regardless of ethnicity. 

5) This is distasteful, but it’s going to come up, and you have to be prepared. Jo Cox was murdered by a retard who had embraced the simple, fallacious certainties offered by a group that has only ever attracted 200 people to a meeting. He is no different from the poor simpletons who carry out suicide bombings in the name of Islamic State. Sure, the dozens who constitute the membership of Britain First will be voting Brexit, but they will also be supporting England in Euro 2016. That doesn’t taint every England football fan with their vile and moronic agenda. Hitler loved dogs. Does that mean you have to have your Labrador put down?

6) Above all, this is about democracy and accountability. The whole structure of the EU is designed so that we can’t remember who our representatives are, that we have no direct connection through them to the European legislature of which they are in any case not a part, and that we cannot remove or hold to account the people who take the big decisions. 

7) Finally, although the official campaign has stopped short of saying this, and you should have a wary eye to your audience, There is an anti-British conspiracy at the top of the EU’s political class.  These are old men with long memories, who rejoice in our loss of empire, and are deeply resentful that we started the artistic and cultural revolution of the 1960s. They rejoice in our economic decline under Harold Wilson, Edward Heath (who took us into this project) and James Callaghan, and loathe the fact that Margaret Thatcher revitalised our economy in defiance of them, to the huge admiration of peoples across Europe and beyond. And still their own voters love us for our style and creativity and dynamism, which irks them all the more. Jean Claude Juncker has made it clear that he wants Britain levelled and humbled, and he represents a particularly nasty strain among European politicians of his generation that sees Britain as a power arrogant beyond its time, and an anomaly that must be ironed out. And, of course, the City of London is the first and biggest target. They are not about love and brotherhood; they are out to get us.

So don’t just vote Leave, get out there in every spare moment to make the case, right up until the polls close. I wish I could be with you, instead of rapping uselessly with the doomed, doe-eyed dodos of comfy-lefty Amsterdam.

Calling Scotland: Let’s do a Deal

Hello, Scottish voters. If the pollsters are to be believed, you will return an overwhelming vote for Remain on Thursday. This means one of three things:

1) That you are even more adept at lying to pollsters than the English.

2) That most of the 9 out every 20 Scots who voted for Independence in 2014 have changed their minds.

3) That supporters of an Independent Scotland just don’t get it.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Dundee for a wedding, and saw, on the hoardings of the construction site that is the new quay-side development there, the inevitable logo of the EU, which had graciously provided a grant out of some of the money Dundee’s citizens themselves had sent to its coffers through their taxes, and thence to the UK’s gross contribution. But it was outnumbered ten to one by those of local businesses that had contributed to the project with their own money out of enlightened self-interest, for they are helping to pay for something that will benefit the whole community, including themselves and their employees. The EU mite is just a PR bribe, paid for with Dundee’s own hard-earned cash.

Then I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh, where I caught up with my mate of 30 years Kenneth Bell, a life-long working class socialist with whom I have always disagreed genially about pretty much everything except the quality of the beer – until now. Ken campaigned for Scottish Independence in 2014, and he is now campaigning for Brexit, in Scotland. Because it’s all about self-determination – the colonies of the Empire fought for it, the Scots have fought for it, and now the UK itself is having to fight for it, with not even a clear majority of its people standing up in favour. Ken’s position is informed and flawlessly logical, and I suggest you download his pamphlet, Why Scotland Should Leave the EU, from Amazon. It’s only 23 pages long, and will cost you 99p for a thumping good read.

Now, I’m well aware that an unknown but probably significant proportion of the 11 out of 20 of you who voted against Independence did so because the UK was part of the EU, and heeded the warning of Jose Manuel Barroso, then President of the European Commission, that the entry of an independent Scotland to the EU would be “difficult, if not impossible”. And that worthy gentleman was talking the talk of the EU, which is dedicated to the erosion of independent nation states in Europe, and consequently looks upon the self-determinist aspirations of Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country, to name but three, with extreme disfavour. 

But that would all change if the UK votes Brexit. The portion of it that controls riches in fishing and oil, but with a tiny population and no global clout, would suddenly become extremely attractive to the EU, and your good taste in bringing the roster of member states back up to 28 – for an odd number at a banquet looks so untidy – would be welcomed with open arms.

In other words, if the UK as a whole votes Remain on Thursday, Scottish Independence is a dead duck for good. Whereas if the UK votes to leave the EU we can at least continue to argue between ourselves through our own parliamentary democracies, without the bullying and sanctions from the EU that would undoubtedly stymie the debate if we stayed in. It might well result in Scottish Independence.  And in this very close-run thing (if you believe the pollsters, or those who respond to them) the Scottish vote will be decisive.

So here’s the deal. Vote Leave massively to strengthen your negotiating position with both Westminster and Brussels, and you will certainly have another referendum whose outcome you alone will decide. Personally, I think you should stay in a UK freed from the restrictive and anti-democratic processes of the EU, but that’s entirely your call. The most important thing is that you help to keep that power by voting Leave. Because if you tip the vote in favour of Remain, you will be small, poor, powerless and exploited forever.

 

 

The factual case is unanswerable. Brexiters must now counter an emotional mood.

The trouble with a blog like this is that, after a honeymoon period in which people of all political persuasions take a look at it out of curiosity, the only regular readers are those who are likely to agree with it. You end up preaching to the converted, articulating why they’re right, not persuading others that they’re wrong. And, for those of us who are convinced of the case for Vote Leave, persuading Remainers that they’re wrong is the task on which we have to concentrate in the next three days. So I’m sorry this is a long one, but please read it all, and quote at will.

Let’s leave aside politicians who have staked their careers on a Remain vote, and industrial leaders who are doing nicely out of the current game, and don’t want the pack reshuffled. These people are impervious to argument. Instead we need to address all the regular decent folk who are leaning towards Remain for less selfish, more emotional reasons. 

Prominent among these are people who are put off by one or all of the principal three personalities leading the Brexit campaign. Of course if their arguments are sound their personal appeal should be irrelevant, but alas politics isn’t like that. The truth is that they are all, in their different ways, much more vivid to the public mind than Cameron, Osborne or Corbyn, whose likeability has taken a massive dive in recent weeks, and excite greater extremes of admiration and distaste. So, for the benefit of the uncoverted, we need to dig a little deeper.

Nigel Farage (who is not part of the official Vote Leave campaign, remember) comes across as a highly articulate but bullying wide boy who has little appeal to the genteel regulars of the market town tea-shop. He is not afraid to cross the boundaries of good taste in order to make his points hit home. He might be a public schoolboy (Dulwich College), but his persona is as naff as Nando’s. But he is a former commodities trader with long experience as an MEP, and knows what he’s talking about when it comes to business and the EU. And he’s right; you don’t have to like the man.

Michael Gove can seem bookish and remote, but he is unfailingly reasoned and courteous even in the face of vulgar abuse. And he was in at the ground floor of the group that evolved into the first Cameron cabinet, so his decision to back Vote Leave was career-breaking and utterly principled – he has even ruled himself out of any imminent party leadership contest. Both his intellect and his motives are above reproach. He is also, as he might have more opportunity to demonstrate once this desperately serious business is concluded, one of the warmest and wittiest politicians we’ve ever had.

Boris Johnson’s combination of personal indiscretion and slick-tongued arrogance is unattractive to many, and he is vulnerable to the suspicion that his enthusiasm for Brexit is skin-deep and born of cynical careerism. But his eight years as Mayor of London (in which office he excelled) lend weight to his oratory in the Vote Leave cause. Nonetheless, many people seem to have bought the line, slid into a number of columns by Remain journalists as an assumption, that a Brexit vote will automatically result in his becoming prime minister. This idea has to be stamped on, and hard.

A new leader of the Conservative Party is elected by the membership from a short-list of two arrived at by a vote of its MPs, and it doesn’t take a research psychologist to see why Boris might not be overwhelmingly popular with his parliamentary colleagues. For a start, most of them are Remainers. Then there’s the fact that he has swanned with much fanfare into two constituencies, while most have them have had to haul themselves up the north face of politics with no trumpets attending. And although he can be a brilliant orator at a rally, and is adept at squashing hecklers, he is often found wanting in debate and interview because he relies more on native wit than on mastery of a brief. It is entirely possible that he might not make the final cut after an MPs’ vote, if a credible straw man – or woman – can be found to oppose Theresa May, who has been the most grown-up, least vocal and least divisive Remainer, has long and deep experience of the party, and is the obvious choice to heal its divisions with calm and commonsense whatever the outcome on Thursday.

So much for the politics of personality. But there is a wider and less tangible movement still contributing to Remain’s poll ratings, a mood that has to be dispelled, a cast of mind that needs to be discredited, and it consists of this; that a Brexit vote will distort British civil society in favour of narrow-mindedness, and put liberalism and diversity on the back foot. So we have to understand and articulate why this is pernicious nonsense.

For a start, the far-right in Britain has consistently been a political joke, though not a funny one, since shortly after its inception in the early 1930s, for even by then British society, especially in its urban centres, was already too diverse and cosmopolitan for fascism to take hold. The British Union of Fascists, the National Front, the British National Party – all have withered, in their time, under popular scrutiny and opposition. With some honourable exceptions this was not true -and amazingly, is still not true – in continental Europe, which is why the masters of the EU do not trust its peoples, and why the institutions and policies of the EU are so scandalously anti-democratic. But Britain has no reason to fear and suppress the popular voice, as the EU does. Depending on your point of view, you might say that the election of Harold Wilson or Margaret Thatcher was British democracy’s low point; but here we are, still a rich, peaceful and powerful nation, with still not a single fascist ever elected to Parliament.

But, although we can be proud, we cannot be complacent. The ever-closer-unionisers of the EU are still in denial of the obvious fact that the far-right and far-left are gaining ground across the continent precisely because national elections are becoming transparently irrelevant. The last thing we want is for that to happen in Britain. The primacy of our democracy, of the liberalism and diversity that Britain pioneered, is what Vote Leave is fighting for, and if we fail we run the very real risk of losing it all in a pincer-movement of foreign oppression and domestic extremism.

That is the most important point.  But now let’s go to the most trivial, and work our way back up again.

In this week’s Sunday Times (which came out for Brexit in its top leader) its has-been restaurant critic, A.A. Gill, observed that he had found the single, killer argument for Remain for which he had longed in all the tedious dinner-party conversations about the referendum he had had to endure over the past months. It was the basket of bread on the table at a London establishment called Noble Rot, which he was reviewing. For there before him were all the finest variations on baking a lump of dough that Europe has to offer, and he took it as the ultimate metaphor for why we should stay in the EU.

Rot, and ignoble rot at that. You can’t bake bread in Bologna or Paris and expect it to be perfect when it gets to London, so the stuff had clearly been sourced from very nearby. But anyway, in the unlikely event of a French or Italian baker going back home if Brexit dawns, their recipes would still be there for the enjoyment of all. But of course he knows that; his point was rather that if we take this inward-looking, troglodytic decision, public taste for foreign breads, and indeed all the fine foreign cuisine currently available in London, will immediately become decisively unfashionable, and it’ll be pie and chips with Hovis at the Savoy for ever more.

This ridiculous nut isn’t worth the sledge-hammer. Of course our gradual education in and taste for continental food might have been encouraged by the EU, but we’re not going to lose it now. The Farage voter in Essex still doesn’t know his focaccia from his panini, but he will in time, whether or not we vote to free ourselves from the bureaucracy that regulates its yeast. That’s a function of the shrinking world, not the burgeoning superstate. Smug restaurant critics who think no further than their own sophistication, let alone celebrity chefs who just admire foreign cooking, are not a great advertisement for Remain.

So let’s move up a notch, to all the luvvies for Remain who have been so keen to patronise us with their lofty pan-national sentiments. The sight of Bob Geldoff flicking a V-sign at Vote Leave fishermen from the comfort of his private yacht was pretty unedifying, and a great symbol for the whole mob of them whose job it is to provide an entertaining alternative to harsh reality. But then we had Eddie Izzard, in his time a brilliantly original stand-up comedian, and a highly intelligent and articulate man, making a complete fool of himself as a rude, shouting yob on Question Time. Why was he so moved? 

It’s not just that the artistic community, especially its most successful members, benefit from a system of EU grants and subsidies that HMG has always been a trifle hesitant to provide, not, in other words, just the gravy-train. It is actually that same worry about liberalism and diversity. I’m sure Eddie Izzard wouldn’t mind my saying that his sexuality is unusual, and the inference I draw from this is that he fears a cultural change consequent upon Brexit, one in which his talent will be marginalised in favour of Jim Davidson, and he will suddenly have bricks thrown at him on the streets of Soho. No, Eddie, our culture is liberal for good, because we started it. 

Just look at the history of British entertainment over the last 50 years. Brilliant, dynamic, ground-breaking, it has inspired the world – and mostly before we became embedded in the European project. The Beatles and Pete and Dud, just to take two outstanding examples among many, were thriving even as de Gaulle was telling us to get lost, and it was Britain that produced the Satire Wave. European television and pop music are still largely embarrassing compared to ours, and we import very little of either; and our most popular, cutting edge comedians, like Izzard, are largely incomprehensible across the Channel (even when he’s speaking his fluent French). The continentals prefer Monty Python and Benny Hill. It is the very diversity with which we have been blessed, by the accidents of history going back 2000 years, that makes our arts so constantly challenging and surprising, not some cross-border economic compromise gone horribly wrong. The bribes might go, but the genius will not, and neither will the British appreciation of it.

There may be many in the Brexit camp who liked Songs of Praise much better when it was just a televised service with best hats and 19th Century hymns. But they treasure Pete and Dud as well, and anyway these are not people who will seize the upper hand if something goes their way for a change; they just want to be left alone. What’s wrong with that?

So there’s my latest briefing. Good luck with it in the pub over the next couple of days. Next time; why Scotland should vote Leave.

Moving with the Times can be any way you like

It should come as no surprise to anybody that today The Times formally came out in favour of the Remain argument in the referendum campaign that will culminate on Thursday. Its sister paper, The Sun, has come out solidly for Brexit, because it is now clear that most of its readers, along with those of the Mirror, the Express and the Star, are of that inclination. 

But The Times is different. Its readers – 75/25 for Brexit, if you go by the on-line comments, but of course that’s just the minority of sad old gits with nothing better to do  – see themselves as intelligent and informed folk who will not go off in a huff if it makes the wrong call – as long as their newspaper of choice continues to flatter them with respect for their views. 

In this regard the top leader encouraging them to vote Remain was a masterpiece, for it listed all the evils of the EU and ‘balanced’ them with the hyperbole of which Vote Leave has been guilty (our net contribution to the EU is only 165 million a week, not 350 – so that’s all right then). But this left it looking even less enthusiastic about Britain’s EU membership than Jeremy Corbyn, who has no grasp at all of facts and figures. And the principal line that Britain should remain in the EU in order to lead and force radical reform to reflect the democratic instincts of Europe’s peoples was wafer-thin. We’ve been trying that, and it hasn’t worked.

On the other hand, if Britain were to return a 51/49% verdict in favour of Remain, the strategy of Britain kicking its weight around in the EU would be the only one that made sense, for the good of the whole continent. It wouldn’t exactly be a wake-up call, but rather the fifth repeat on the snooze function, the one that says “OK, it’s really time to get up now” to the smug masters of the European project who have hitherto regarded the popular voice as an inconvenient irrelevance. But if that’s a reason to vote Remain, there is a much more compelling one to vote Leave.

For this summer or the next there will certainly be popular demonstrations against the EU all over Europe, and how serious they get – 1968 0r 1848 – is up to its politicians, to whether they abandon and repudiate the dream of ever closer union or entrench and accelerate its imposition. Even the institutionally pro-EU IMF has warned of rising sentiment against it. The fever has already taken hold in Paris, and the water-cannon and tear-gas have been out. Oh, you might say, but that’s about proposed French employment laws, and nothing to do with the EU. Well, yes and no. Those employment laws are against the socialist instincts of the weak and vacillating Hollande, but necessary to keep France pulling its weight in the EU.  And he is still, as President of France, a cornerstone of the EU, and the rioters make no distinction between the different policies of a single politician they have come to despise. Hollande has discredited the EU in France just as much as Angela Merkel, who is also facing ignominy at her next election, has in Germany. David Cameron is now, having been a successful prime minister with no effective opposition, a dead duck just because of his advocacy for Remain (oh, politics is a cruel business). Italy, Spain and Portugal will have to cope with the same tide of opinion, that the elite have conned the people. Greece has been mad as a box of frogs for five years. It’s going to get nasty, no matter how Britain votes; though, of course, everyone, especially Merkel, Hollande, Tusk and Juncker, will blame Britain when it happens, not themselves. 

But Britain doesn’t have to be part of this. In 1848 and 1968 the continental virus mutated to a mild cold as it crossed the Channel, and if we vote Leave popular sentiment will have got the whole thing out of its system, with a decisive break from the European project and a radical change in the composition of a Conservative government. To our continental friends this looks like a milk-and-water revolution, no fire, no spirit;  but it’s enough for us, and it doesn’t involve the shedding of blood.

But if Britain votes Remain we will catch the continental flu big time. There will be water cannon and tear-gas in Trafalgar Square, instead of just comical, harmless demonstrations and a daft sculpture on the fourth plinth. It will be very European. Is that what you want? I don’t. Vote Leave.

Footnote: Today the Sunday Times has come out for Brexit.

Try thinking, you Eejits

British Members of Parliament are elected to represent the interests, not the opinions of their constituents, which is an ever more valuable principle in a society in which you are encouraged by intrusive pollsters and canvassers to feel like a thick nobody if you don’t have an opinion on everything, and in which almost everybody’s opinion on almost everything is consequently half baked. And you can always tell that someone has put no thought into the formation of their opinion when they introduce it with the words “I just think…”

In the late ’90s this formula was often extended, notably by audience-members on Question Time and the like, irrespective of the subject under discussion, to “I just think that, as we approach the millennium…”, as though the imminent flipping of a whole four digits all at once had anything to do with the price of fish. I just thought that, as we approached the millennium, I’d better get used to the idea of starting the year on my cheques and letters with a 2. Not much thought required on that one, except for the nanosecond it took me to twig that the millennium wasn’t going to begin until Jan 1st 2001, which made me a proper little Plato compared to almost everyone with whom I shared the priceless privilege of my suffrage. But I digress.

In the current festival of opinion-punting occasioned by the EU referendum it is interesting to note that most of the I Just Think, (or IJT, pronounced “Eejit”) is coming from people who say they’re going to vote Remain, but can’t offer any proper justification for doing so. How many of these have you heard recently?

“I just think we’ve had peace in Europe for 70 years now, and…” (Yes. Thanks very much to NATO, and thanks for nothing to the EU. Next!)

“I just think we shouldn’t be turning our backs on Europe.” (We’re not – the guns will still be pointing south and east.)

“I just think it’s better to build bridges than walls.” (Oh, nice one. They got it from the Pope, who was actually talking about Donald Trump’s plan to build a literal wall on the US/Mexico border. In any other context it’s just a pretty metaphor that anyone could agree with if it suited them.)

“I just think we’ll be better off if we stay in.” (Really? Why? Oh no, cat got your tongue? Ah. Thought so.)

“I just think we’ve got to stop pretending we’re still a great power.” (But Britain is still a great power. It’s just that in 1900 it was so imponderably rich and mighty that it now feels titchy by comparison, but only to us. It’s the world’s 5th largest economy and 4th most powerful military force, which is why the EU is so desperate to keep us in. We don’t need it. Mind you, I was only joking about the guns.) 

“I just think this is the 21st Century…” (Yes, well spotted. Ever been on Question Time?)

Oddly, what you never hear is “I just think that if the Prime Minister says we should stay in then it must be in the best interests of the country”, except from Conservative MPs gambling on their promotion prospects. Almost nobody any more trusts Cameron or Corbyn, let alone the gangs of self-serving oligarchs that actually run the EU, the World Bank, the IMF or the OECD. “I just think” does not express any deference to any of these, but arises from a fear of thinking, a timid reluctance to question the status quo, no matter how horrible its prospects. The Eejits don’t want to rock the sinking boat by breaking for the shore.

Well, it’s time they found some gumption, did a bit of research and thought, and started opening with “The fact is” instead of “I just think”. When they do that the Leave campaign will win by a country mile, and all the sovereign nations of Europe will follow, in their different ways, to reform the EU into a free trade zone with no supranational ambitions. I would say good luck to that – especially with a friendly, powerful neighbour outside but trading with it, and constantly there to remind it of the primacy of democracy, and of the vital importance of thinking to make democracy survive, and work to the benefit of all. The British have to vote Leave for Europe’s sake, not just Britain’s. The alternative is the rejection of democracy all over Europe, as its peoples rise against autocracy with the gun and the fire-bomb. The ballot-box has to win, and win through thinking.

The philosophy of Nationalism is too difficult for the Remainers

Question: Where has the EU succeeded when Britain failed? Answer: Ireland.

Oh, I’m not talking about the Peace Process here – the EU has had nothing to do with that. What I mean is that the EU has so far successfully bribed, bullied and threatened the Irish into remaining within its fold, whereas Irish nationalism proved too strong for the much mightier British Empire of a century past to contain. And the interesting thing with reference to the current referendum campaign in Britain is that Ireland in the 19th Century also had its Remainers, or “West Britons”, as they were called, who were strikingly similar to the British Europhiles of our own day. Centred on a prosperous Dublin metropolitan elite that flaunted its sophistication, they felt at home in the bright lights of London, and disdained the petty parochialism of the struggling proletarian and agricultural masses.

There are differences between the two cases, of course. The population of Ireland was tiny compared to that of England, let alone the Empire, yet made a vastly disproportionate contribution to British armed forces and colonial administration, as well as Anglophone scholarship and literature. Ireland was economically negligible, with everything to gain from continued membership of by far the most powerful and dynamic trading bloc the world had ever seen, and was justly fearful of a British military response to rebellion.  In other words, the nationalist movement was a philosophical one that had little going for it in terms of practical advantage, and yet the West Britons were a remote and despised minority who were ultimately overtaken by the force of popular sentiment.

This makes it all the more strange that now, when Britain is holding a referendum on its continued membership of the EU, its own privileged and remote Remainers seem to exercise such influence on the voting population – indeed until recently it looked like a dead cert that they would carry the day. For Britain is neither tiny nor economically negligible, it has no significant penetration in the administration of the EU or standing in its political culture; and the EU is sclerotic, not dynamic, and is merrily digging the whole continent into a recessionary hole from which we would do well to free ourselves. And it does not, at least not yet, have the means or command the loyalty to meet our secession with armed force. Compared to Irish nationalism against the Empire, Brexit is unanswerable in practical terms and a doddle into the bargain.

But all the sneering bistro-bores in the Remain camp seem to care about is clinging to the tribalism of the skin-deep sophisticate, lest someone spot the mark of the bicycle-clip on their Armani chinos. They don’t care that the EU is dragging their country into the mire with a long view to its effective abolition, because they know a great little restaurant in Siena that working-class Brits will never find, and wouldn’t like if they did. It’s all about them, not the freedom of their less privileged compatriots, let alone their country. And they do have one positive reason to love the EU, which is that it, like them, fears and despises popular democracy.