You may be expecting some wisdom on how to vote on the EU Referendum. If I had any to offer, I might be tempted, but I do not propose to advise you on something I do not understand. I have been itching to write something on the subject, fond as I am of my own verbosity, but quickly realised that the EU Referendum is a roll of the dice. So I decide to make some observations, and if those observations inform your choice, I apologise, for they have not yet informed mine.
In talking to people on the subject I notice that the Decidedly Inners appear to look with a plaintiff disbelief that anyone could possibly think otherwise than to remain. It is almost a religious fervour. Those, on the other hand, who are less sure, tend to look shyly as they tell of a secret immoral desire to vote to leave. A guilty apologetic pleasure exists among the not-Quite Decidedly Outers, as if theirs is a perversion, an irresistible, anti-establishment mischief. And this led me to think about the Referendum itself. For there is sheer dishonesty in the whole process, setting Big-Endians against Little-Endians, as if either actually knew which was right and which was wrong.
Yet who are the people that fall into the various camps? Will that help me decided which club I should join? In general, and let’s face it, generally people make generalisations, the Decidedly Inners comprise a rather upstanding collection of Establishment people: government, banks, very large businesses, government backed economists, monetary funds, financial institutions, and foreign governments. Well, they would wouldn’t they? These are the very people who gain most from our membership of the EU. They are largely the architects, and who can blame them for acting in their own self-interest? Yet who among them have clothed themselves in glory in the last couple of decades?
On the other side of the debate we find an equally potent bunch of self-interest: wannabe-political leaders, anarchic anti-globalisation protestors, people who just want to protest, people who simply see the EU as an open door to all comers, the irrational, and the intellectual, local-business leaders, philosophers, economists, business people and nationalists. A hell of a mix, you might say. And tucked in there are some really brilliant folk, causing me to pause for thought. For example, in among them are people like John Redwood, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson – who may not be natural bed-fellows, nor all thought of by the general public as heroes, but whose intellectual capacity probably accounts for about 50% of the entire IQ of the House of Commons – whether or not you agree with or like what they say is a quite different matter.
So if I am right, we have the Empire and the Rebellion, but where is the Force and where the Dark Side?
Taking a different but related perspective, we could think about the so-called Public Interest. I wonder what that is? People refer to it all the time, yet, in the same way as a philosopher might explain that there is no such thing as an unselfish act, so, we might say, there is no such thing as the Public Interest. It is more the best interest of those who decide what is or is not in the public interest. This is similar to the concept of “taxpayers’ money”, which is more accurately termed, “formerly taxpayers’ money”. What we learn from this, as if we did not already know, is that you cannot trust what politicians and the media tell you, as they will always have their own agenda. But there is a difference between trusting and being informed by.
The Referendum itself is of course ludicrous and dishonest. We are being asked to choose between a certainty that things will remain tolerably awful in the EU, with little and decreasing UK autonomy, ever more open borders and a seeming inevitability that Angela Merkel will preside over Europe flushing itself down the toilet. Or, on the other hand, a complete unknown, which carries a distinct possibility that it is also a toilet with an even more powerful flush. That is not a valid choice, and it is, perhaps a failing of the Decidely Outers that their cry is one of how bad the EU is rather than how good it could be outside of the EU (oh, and here are our plans). Thus we have it: a roll of the dice. Stable boredom pandering to the lowest common denominator, or a jump out of the aeroplane with what looks like a parachute, but may actually be a raincoat. Maybe it depends on your age, and whether you have time for things to get better?
As a child, I saw, as my family business was destroyed by cheap imports from the (then) EEC, the pain that entry into Europe caused. Private Eye, I recall, produced a record in their magazine, in which it announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now entering Europe”, followed by the sound of an enormous crash. But we have been through that pain, and we need to ask ourselves whether our inherent secret desire to leave the EU is there because the EU is bad for us or whether it is merely our belligerence that lead us to want to stick two fingers up at the Establishment.
Answers, on a ballot paper please.