An evening at the LSE

George Eustice; Mark Reckless; Sir Stephen Wall; Presenter Evan Davis; RFH; Dr. Helen Szamuely

Last Tuesday evening, I had been invited by the BBC to take part in a debate on the EU, at the London School of Economics.  It had a rather curious “asymmetric” structure.  Sir Stephen Wall proposed the pro-EU motion, but was then faced with a panel of four more-or-less sceptical characters, who could put questions or challenge his points.

On the panel were George Eustice MP, one of the Three Musketeers behind the “Fresh Start” initiative in the Conservative Parliamentary Party; Mark Reckless MP; Dr. Helen Szamuely of the Bruges Group; and myself.  Mark, Helen and I are avowedly in the Better Off Out camp.  We want an In/Out Referendum, and we want to campaign for OUT.  George and his Fresh Start Initiative have repackaged the standard Conservative position that we simply want to renegotiate our EU membership, because we want to retain the “benefits” of the Single Market (though as I have argued elsewhere, these benefits are highly debateable).

The programme will go out on BBC Radio 4 at 8:00 p.m. on August 8th, repeated later in the week.  Needless to say, the substance of the debate is embargoed until the programme airs.  But I may, perhaps, mention the audience.

In this case the BBC did not invoke the “balance” mechanisms which they use, I understand, for Question Time and Any Questions, to ensure that the audience represents a range of political views.  They (or as I rather suspect, the LSE itself) invited an audience of 400 or so which, by accident or design, was overwhelmingly pro-EU.  I would describe it as a left-wing, Europhile, Guardianista Rent-a-Mob.  The event was introduced by the Head Honcho of the LSE’s European Institute, who is clearly a dyed-in-the-wool, paid-up, card-carrying €uro-luvvie.

They were balanced by a few stalwarts from the sceptic side, including the redoubtable Mick McGough of TFA and UKIP, and Rory Broomfield, the new Associate Director at TFA.

I am accustomed to audiences which hiss and boo when I mention “Ted Heath” or “Brussels”.  This audience produced hoots of derisive laughter when I mentioned Margaret Thatcher or America.  It was difficult to have a rational debate.  But it was a salutary and character-forming experience.

I suspect that most of the audience also believed in man-made global warming.  And perhaps the tooth fairy.

The panel

After the event, we were kindly entertained to drinks and snacks on the 5th floor.  Pita bread, feta cheese, humus, olives a Greek yoghurt salad.  A wit suggested that LSE’s Catering Department was on single-handed campaign to save the Greek economy.  But I think it’ll take more than a few snacks.

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8 Responses to An evening at the LSE

  1. Roger! Now you’ve left the Conservatives, how about giving us your honest opinion on those that are genuine “outers” and those MP’s who are “modifiers”. Do these MP’s truly believe that the rest of the members in the EU are going to allow us to “pick n mix” policies?

    • In my judgement, Reckless, Philip Davies and a few others are outers. Some others — perhaps many — believe the same, but daren’t say so for the sake of their career prospects. I don’t think it would help to embarrass them by naming them.

      • Tom Gowans says:

        There you have hit the nail on the head and another good reason to keep the idiosynchratic unelected House of Lords.

        Too many politicians are more concerned with their career prospects than doing their duty by their country. A lot of them have not even held a real job down.

        Although they deserve a good kicking if they could be found, there’s a distinct lack of balls in Westminster.

  2. “This audience produced hoots of derisive laughter when I mentioned Margaret Thatcher or America”. Why are people on the left always devoid of simple manners? They usually hiss and boo when they don’t have a reasoned alternative or answer to something (which is most of the time).

  3. Tom Gowans says:

    “If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your President,” he (Mitt Romney) told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “You have that President today”. Promising another “American century” in which the US acts as the global night watchman and does not hesitate to “wield our strength” when needed, he said: “I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world”.

    He also blathered on about restoring the ‘special relationship’ that has cooled under the present US administration before going on to criticise the UK’s preparedness to host the Olympics without even blushing at the memory of the fraud laced scandal that was his own nation’s effort.

    I don’t recall voting for any US president much less agreeing to allow them to police the world, or interfere constantly in the internal politics of other nations. Don’t forget, I live in a country that endured 27 years of brutal civil war as a result of their foreign policy.

    Meanwhile Nick Clegg stated that “There was nothing Bulldog about sitting mid-Atlantic.”

    No Mr Clegg, I quite agree. We are a small hopefully soon to be once again truly independent union (one with great economic potential) situated just off the coast of Europe. You should know, you have visited both the United States and Spain. Which trip is considered a long haul flight? But there is nothing Bulldog about being Brussels’ puppy either.

    I know you can’t give us a sneak preview, Mr Helmer, so I will wait with interest to hear what comments you made about America that had such a partisan audience hooting.

  4. This is a really interesting article.
    If I were trying to peddle a point of view, I would make sure that the audience was taken from a place which agreed with my own views. Evan Davis and the BBC are hardly impartial, after all.
    I personally turned off the rubbish last night about the rowing pair because, quite honestly, it is just propaganda. I knew the line being peddled.
    The scariest thing is that schools, universities, the Church of England, the BBC and the Guardian (so often quoted on radio 4) are all peddling the same line. And it is wrong.

  5. Charles Wardrop says:

    Maybe only a threat of severe reductions in our BBC tax/licence fee would discipline that corrupt, spoilt organization to adhere to the terms and spirit of its Charter, but can anyone imagine the Coalition cosidering that? They’re too weak, as well as feart of attacks on them from the BBC, which Patten would endorse in private. A national scandal, from a grotesquely swollen outfit, desperately needing to be cut down to size, by new, Reithian brooms, but are there any such, nowadays?

  6. Alec Yates says:

    Hear the programme here, available until next Wednesday August 15th.

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