No laughing matter

Odds have narrowed on Remain in the past few days, and I am anxious. We’re back at about 3-1 for Remain (place a bet of three pounds and you’ll get four pounds back). This suggests that Remain is still the more likely option, and betting odds have recently been a better guide to outcomes than opinion polls, but momentum seems to lie with Leave.

anxiouscameron

David Cameron gave an anxious, defensive performance on Sky News last night, where he was (over)aggressively questioned by Sky’s Chief Political Editor, Faisal Islam, and by the audience (what exactly are the rewards of a life in politics?). Although the audience was balanced (a third for Remain, a third for Leave and a third uncertain) the mood was truculent and unfriendly. Much of the questioning centred on the ‘conduct’ of the campaign rather than its substance – and reasonably so, because the conduct of the campaigns, on both sides, has been execrable.

The entire Remain campaign has been defensive, an attempt to instil fear in the minds of the electorate – fear of the economic consequences of Brexit and fear of the security implications – and it has produced exaggerations that have insulted the intelligence of voters.

For example, the claim that British families will be 4,000 pounds ‘poorer’ after Brexit was deliberately misleading. Economic forecasts are highly contentious, but no one is actually suggesting that anyone will be ‘poorer than now’, rather that families will be ‘richer than now…but poorer than they would be if Britain were to remain in the EU.’

And the ‘World War Three’ claim – that peace in Europe is threatened by Brexit – was another foolish exaggeration. But Cameron never actually used the words ‘World War Three’. He simply made the link between the creation of the EU and an unprecedented 70 years of peace in Western Europe and suggested that war between European nations was not impossible to imagine . Not a stupid claim, in my view – the European Coal and Steel Community between France, Germany and other countries just after the Second World War (a precursor of the Common Market, which, in turn, preceded the EU) was an explicit attempt to entwine the largest continental economies and make war less likely. War is inconceivable now, but in a hundred years time, who knows?

When he was questioned on the idea on Sky last night the audience laughed. In fact it’s a measure of how successfully the EU has linked us all together that the idea of war is so ridiculous. It is inconceivable that there could be war in the near future between the nations of Western Europe, but Brexit doesn’t make it less likely. It might be the first small step towards hostility decades from now.

The entire debate has been largely negative. If anything, it’s been the Leave campaigners who have been the more visionary – they paint a sentimental and illogical picture of a lovely Britain for the British, truly sovereign, in control of its borders, pragmatic and efficient, and proud. A Britain that might win the World Cup again, and another World War or two. It’s a sentimental and anachronistic idea, but it resonates with voters. It is at least positive – even if wrong.

But on both sides most of the debate has  been about economic disaster, security, and most recently about immigration. And sadly, it’s the debate about immigration that’s swinging things the Brexit way. Immigration has excited British bigots since Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in the 1960s.

But it’s all so negative. Who is making the positive arguments on the Remain side? Who dares to make a non-Brit-centric argument that for all its faults the EU is a good thing for Britain, for Europe and the world? No one.

Someone at Tory Party Headquarters decided that the Remain campaign should trade on Fear. I fear it might have been a big mistake.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “No laughing matter

  1. <bodyHi Adam

    I hope all is well with you.

    I do think the immigration issue is very tangled, but I think people are seeing very rapid and visible changes in allocation of resources and cultural changes. Whether this due to EU open door policies or bigger issues is an open debate. There is a feeling that remote European bureaucrats are not sensitive to these factors, and see only an ideological principle which binds together the basis of an open EU.

    You may be aware of various programmes in the UK which cast a light on benefit claimants etc. here in the UK. Some of these are redolent of indulging a kind of looking down one’s nose at the less fortunate, and more challenged, and frankly occasionally pretty horrible Brits on benefits. One of the more well intentioned programmes in this category is called ‘How to get a Council House.’

    It features the very real pressures on London boroughs from every direction. In each programme there are several histories featuring either families or individuals vying for accommodation.

    One of these featured a Romanian man who had in the previous year done casual work in the UK. He had returned to the UK the following year with his five children and wife out of the blue, and turned up on the doorstep of a London borough asking for council accommodation, with a local charity supervisor in attendance who had found them temporary overnight accommodation. The Romanian man said that his family were living a desperate life in Romania.

    The Council initially refused him accommodation. However, after several visits they established he had previously claimed jobseekers allowance, and technically this gave him some sort of work status, and the fact that he had very young children allowed him to have a priority for housing.

    The catch was that this housing had to be in ….Birmingham. The house they got was a nice newly refurbished terrace property. The programme ended, and although I presume he was hungry to work, it said he had been unemployed for five weeks.

    Even his kind helper from the London charity said the man was irresponsible for arriving in Winter with five children and no plan. However, now the UK is housing him, giving him benefits, will have to educate his children, attend to their health needs etc. His neighbours in Birmingham may feel less charitably towards him?

    Maybe this was unusual, but it did seem to illustrate an ongoing narrative about immigration issues.

    I am inclined to believe these matters are best resolved inside the EU, but the pressures are very real on the ground.

    Regards

    David

    David Birch
    Commercial Director & Company Secretary
    Direct Dial: (0)1923 652116
    Mobile: 07958 336908
    email: david.birch@touchstone.co.uk
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    • Hi David,

      Ye, you’re right. There are huge pressures, and there’s misbehaviour and exploitation by everyone. I’ve seen the corruption and idiocy of the EU’s distribution of funds in Eastern Europe first hand. Vast reform is needed. But to my mind the good outweighs the bad by about 70:30. The problem is that the bad is very visible and the good is partly theoretical (ideological, as you put), hard to quantify and difficult to justify. I think Enoch P was making his speeches long before the UK joined the EU. It will always be an issue. Adam

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  2. While one can argue the pros and cons of the migration of refugees into Europe and the moral imperative of it as it might affect the citizens of each EU member state, one is left in doubt that it affects different countries in different ways.

    Last night, on German TV we
    learned that one of the ISIL terrorists who planned an attack
    on civilian targets was a migrant
    from Syria smuggled in by ISIL for just purposes.

    The spokesman for German
    Counter Terrorism admitted that
    70% of Germany’s migrants either
    had no papers with them or
    ddestroyed those they had no
    doubt in an effort to deceive the
    authorities. He also admitted that
    of 1,400 German Muslims who
    left to fight in Syria, 800 are now
    back in Germany.

    When asked if the intelligence
    services were able to monitor
    successfully what suspected
    targets might be up to, we
    learned that ideally 6 agents
    would be required to monitor one
    suspect. So with 800 potential
    ISIL trained Germans back home,
    just these would require 4,800 agents to ensure they were harmless .

    Take the statistic that 70% of Migrants into Germany had no papers and that 1 million are expected to come in to just one nation in the EU alone, costing the German economy $55 bn it means the need for 4,200,000 security personnel to ensure undocumented migrants are truly just people who lost their papers innocently.

    Which can’t happen.

    This should have been obvious to any person using common sense.

    By all means take in migrants but the duty of any politician is to protect the people who voted for them and pay, through taxation, for their Iincreasingly lavish lifestyles.

    Instead without consulting anyone but their own inner circle of MEP leaders the De Facto leaders led by Merkel, decided to gamble on being humane and to hell with what anyone else felt.

    The consequences of such an action has had 2 visible effects:

    1. The rise of fascist parties across Europe.

    2. A rise in disgust and fear of EU membership. It’s not just in the UK that membership of the EU is being questioned now.

    I belive it was a German general who remarked that the British troops being slaughtered in WW1 because of the stupidity of their generals were “lions led by donkeys.”

    Well we are not all fools if we want to get back to a system where elected politicians can be voted out of office if they get it wrong.

    Some of us are just tired of being led by donkeys you cannot vote in or out.

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