Game Changer

Showing my age: back in 1975, we had a referendum on membership of the mendaciously-named “Common Market”, and to my eternal shame I voted Yes.  After all (they told us) it was all about trade and jobs, and who could be against trade and jobs?  All the media, more or less, said yes, and it was only old extremists like Enoch Powell and Tony Benn who were against.  Clearly they’d failed to grab the zeitgeist of the modern world, they were left behind by the tide of history.  Sad old men with old ideas, turning their backs on the future.

I recently re-read a book of Enoch Powell’s speeches on Europe from around that time.  They were extraordinarily prescient.  He told us what was going to happen, but it seemed so bizarre and improbable at the time that we ignored him.  But he was overwhelmingly, utterly right.

Then around 1999 (the year I was first elected to the European parliament), we had a similar picture.  All the starry-eyed europhiles, all the soft centre, were for joining the €uro.  Exactly the same arguments.  It was the wave of the future.  We would miss the train and be left behind on the platform.  Washed up by the tide of history.  The future was inevitable, and the future was Europe.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  Only a few curmudgeons were against (myself included, thank heaven, this time).

But there was a change.  Some sections of the media had come round to a more sceptic view (though the BBC and the FT kept on beating the Brussels drum). Certainly the sceptics were less isolated than in 1975.  And courtesy of Sir James Goldsmith, all the main parties were at least signed up to a €uro referendum — and then realised, to their horror, that such a referendum could simply not be won.

In recent years, sceptics like me were frequently reminded that in opinion polls, the issue of Europe came well down the list, behind health and education and jobs and pensions and immigration and many other issues.  The public just don’t care, they said — although when asked, the public were generally hostile to Brussels.

My, how things have changed.  Now that that the travails of the €uro have become nightly news, now that the crisis refuses to go away, now that EU leaders are blowing in the wind and unable to get a grip on the problem (unable even to understand it, blinkered as they are by their ideological obsessions), the public mind has been focussed on the EU as never before.  And they don’t like what they see.  The warnings of Powell and Benn, and the host of sceptics who came after, are abundantly justified.  Dire predictions are coming to pass as we speak.

And in a stunning example of the new mood, senior figures from pro-European parties are speaking out.  Lord Owen, of all people, has spoken of a two-speed Europe.   Fiscal Union in a central core, with Britain and the rest of this particular “coalition of the unwilling” in a much looser outer zone.  He doesn’t quite say so, but the outer zone could be simply a free trade area.  I don’t know why we didn’t think of it years ago.  We could call it EFTA.

Then Jack Straw, that Labour elder statesman, came up with a stunner.  The European parliament, he said, had failed to resonate with EU citizens, and did not deliver the democratic legitimacy craved by the Eurocrats.  It should be abolished.  Right on, Jack.  I’ll drink to that (and vote for it, if I ever get the chance).

Sadly, though, the leadership of all three main parties remain wedded to EU membership.  David Cameron has told me face-to-face that he wants no referendum on the EU because Britain is “Better Off In”.  All three major parties are guilty on this one.  In fact on this vital issue for the future of our country, only UKIP is ahead of the curve.  Conservatives should be very worried indeed.

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5 Responses to Game Changer

  1. Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more.

  2. James A. Hutchinson says:

    Roger ,
    I entirely agree with your sentiments on the EU . I have written to Cameron by e-mail in the past ( pre Prime Minister ~ hard to contact directly now !) to express my own concerns at the folly of EU membership ; one is always fobbed off with a bog-standard letter extolling the EU virtues (?). I also put my name to any media or government site petition re our withdrawal from this corrupt organization that I can find and , encourage all my friends and relatives to do likewise . It is my eternal hope that the Conservative leadership will see sense and give the people of this country the referendum on the EU that they crave , but I won’t hold my breath . There is a great big world out there awaiting our trade ; not the stifling influence of the EU .
    More and more MP’s of all shades MUST force Cameron’s hand and call for a simple referendum on Europe ~ In or Out ; let the people decide .
    Jim .

  3. Phil Richmond says:

    Roger – I think the Conservative party should be worried by not just the numbers defecting to UKIP but whi is defecting. You are losing the once loyal passionate true Conservatives. People who besides want out of the EU, believe in a low-tax, smaller State, a strong defence.
    I keep saying this – Cameron is an unprincipled fool for moving the party towards the left onto this mythical centre ground to appeal to middle-class Guardian readers. Firstly there are very few of these people and secondly they would never vote Tory anyway!
    However with policies which include an EU referendum, tough on immigration, tough on criminals, stop welfare spongers, cut taxes and reward hard work you would hoover up the millions of aspirational patriotic working class and would therefore win a landslide.
    How do I know this – well I come from a working class family and because of Magaret Thatcher voted Tory in 1987 just after I turned 18. I was loyal ever since until Cameron. Last year I left the party and joined UKIP. Im not the only one.

  4. michael mcgough says:

    Roger,I too voted yes in 1975 and have continually regretted this since Maastricht.
    You have honestly and loyally tried to lead your Tory colleagues to water whilst the leadership take them up the hill and down again.
    There is little more you could have done.
    Your free ,and freedom is reality;your Country calls.

  5. Mike Spilligan says:

    Roger – I can only concur with the previous two comments – no more voters of the slightly-left-of-centre sort will go over to the Tories, while the Tory Party is losing scores every day through soft policies, inaction on chicanery and so on.
    But – who can get this message through to Cameron? Ben Brogan, a man whose “radar” should be finely tuned, seems equally distant from reality as his column in today’s Telegraph shows.

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