Campaigning is hurtling into its final phase in the British EU referendum and as the calendar marches inexorably towards June 23rd, so too do the acrimonious and volatile exchanges between the Leave and Remain camps. The former Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP proclaimed that the project of the European Union and European unity per se was akin to that of Hitler’s vision of and ambition for Europe. Steve Hilton, the former Director of Strategy for the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is a histrionic and quite bonkers having already made the most ignorant attack on China calling it a “rouge state” last autumn, is at it again by stating, in his hallmark neurotic style that being a member of the EU makes Britain “literally ungovernable”. If it is so ungovernable, one wonders what he was doing with all his time spent in Downing Street?
Meanwhile, the week before, the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron – who called the Referendum in the first place – warned against the backdrop of the neo-classical imperial splendour that if Britain were to leave the EU it could trigger a third world war. His predecessor, Sir John Major, tells Leave proponents to look to North Korea for a State of undiluted sovereignty. The former Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith darkly and ridiculously predicts that if the UK remains locked into the Brussels behemoth, EU membership could increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack on Britain. So Mr Duncan Smith would let Islamist fanatics dictate which international organisations Britain can and cannot remain in? Ludicrous!
Then there has been the remarkable spectre of former British intelligence chiefs so publicly disagreeing and adopting opposing positions regarding the security implications. As has the phalanx of economic officials from the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney to the President of the IMF Christine Lagarde intervening with atonements of economic and financial doom if an ejection button is pressed by the British electorate to unilaterally withdraw from the post-WWII international architecture of the Euro-Atlantic community. The warnings have between so dire (rightly so in my opinion) from the Prime Minister and Chancellor, one begins to wonder why Mr Cameron called this Referendum in the first place.
As I previously wrote, this Referendum was only called by Cameron to assuage his back-benchers and grass roots in the face of growing support for Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party. David Cameron has consistently showed a penchant for weak leadership and caving in politically in the face of powerful opposition rather than surmounting it by facing it down. His Government has already made U-turn after U-turn this year alone on education reforms, working families’ tax credits and other public policy matters. His backing down and scrapping previously promoted and outlined policies and positions were a hallmark of his first Government.
One way or the other, whether the UK votes to stay in the EU or go, it feels as if Mr Cameron’s days at Number 10 are coming to an end. The numbers are clearly there to get rid of him and if he loses the plebiscite on June 23rd he won’t last for long, as the former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke MP has made clear. Boris Johnson’s forays around the country leading the charge for the Leave campaign has felt like an audition for the leadership of the Tory Party and with it the keys to Downing Street for the next four years as the media fresh, intriguing, flamboyant PM. Just as Donald Trump is the genie, which the Republican Establishment allowed an elite manipulated blue collar to wish for out of the GOP bottle, so too is the Leave Campaign and its Holy Grail of the EU Referendum campaign.
The distortions and out-right lies that the Leave campaign have promulgated is further evidence of the decline and debasing of British political discourse. Part of the very problem with regards to UK membership of the EU is the fact that many other European countries, in particular France and Germany, have a strong sense and affinity for what it is to be European. As Angela Merkel is fond of saying: “common European problems require European solutions.” You never hear such rhetoric from British politicians, whether it be from the Remain or Leave campaigns. No one talks about being “European” in Britain. European Union flags do not fly on any public buildings and are never present at official State occasions.
Perhaps due to the fact that the island was never invaded during WWII and thanks to the decisive support of the United States from the West and the USSR from the East, Britain was able to defeat its ancient rival in the form of Nazi Germany. What is most peculiar however is the fact that while Britain stood tall and proud as the undefeated and most powerful nation in Europe by 1945, and Germany was in ruins (Berlin almost bombed to smithereens) it was the German people free from the debilitating evil of Nazism, who had managed by almost a miracle to rebuild their battered country which by 1956 was again the strongest economy in Europe.
Very little has changed over the last few decades except that Britain has grown poorer while Germany richer, the UK has become a byword in economic terms for inefficiency, weak productivity, economic mismanagement, lack of discipline and mediocre living standards while the UK has grown more socially un-cohesive and has dealt with one of the most appalling teenage birth rates of any-where in Europe alongside a free market “free-for-all” which has allowed the richest 10% to get richer rather than pursuing the solidarity and regulation of the German social market model. The UK middle and working classes are not able to take full advantage of the opportunities are leaders tell us are there for the taking while the quality of jobs, industrial activity, wages and standard of living is of a much higher and indeed more erudite standard for their fellow classes in Germany or France.
At the heart of Thatcherism was a doctrine to remake and rebuild Britain as a strong, dynamic and innovative post-imperial, modern European nation at ease with its place in Europe and the world more dependent on its own efforts, systems and structures at home and within what was then the European Economic Community, rather than relying on the facade and racism of imperialism abroad.
Also, at the heart of Thatcherism lay a burning frustration and scorn for how the British Establishment, professional classes, trade unions, Public School educated Whitehall mandarins and (at the time) anti-European socialists had misgoverned the country in a stupid and feckless manner. Indeed, Thatcherism, was more radical and revolutionary than the Conservative Party itself especially on the issue of social mobility which it sought to expand by raising the aspirations of the population and breaking down traditional class barriers. Unfortunately, while some aspects of the analysis of Thatcherism were correct, the solutions in many ways, compounded if not exacerbated the rut which Britain had become stuck in.
However, one aspect of Thatcherism which was correct was that whatever ills afflicted the condition of Britain it was down to internal issues, not some foreign conspiracy emanating from the capitals of Berlin, Paris and Brussels. Indeed, Mrs Thatcher with her known coolness towards Germany, spoke admiringly of the German economy and system even under an SPD Chancellor in the form of Helmut Schmidt and it was the Thatcher Government which pushed through the Single European Act, creating the Single Market with more economic integration and more Qualified Majority Voting. Mrs Thatcher unfortunately became completely unhinged on the subject of the European Union and (perhaps rightly) on the matter of European Economic and Monetary Union, but it should be remembered how sound she was in the beginning of her tenure with no talk whatsoever of pulling out of the EC. Even the Conservative Party conference of 1983 featured the EEC flag alongside the Union Jack, unthinkable in today’s overwhelmingly anti-European party.
The fact of the matter is, Thatcherism was right to identify that whatever problems Britain faces come more from within than without. There is more democracy within the institutions of the European Union than there is within the institutions of Westminster. The British, for example, do not have a democratic Parliament. They have half a democratic Parliament with the unelected House of Lords nothing more than a bastion for the worst kind of political cronyism, profligacy and backwardness, yet still able to vote on the laws of the land. The British, have one of the most inconsistent and most polarised education systems in the world which does not equip many young British teenagers to speak other European languages very well, let alone a language like Mandarin.
The City of London has become more and more like it’s out of control counterpart on Wall Street while more and more public money is wasted on gimmick after gimmick rather than investing it where it is needed most: schools, hospitals, social and educational programmes. The obscene teenage parent birth rate in England, of girls as young as 12 or 13, is not just morally sickening but has placed a tremendous strain on the countries resources and given rise to an underclass known colloquially as “chavs”, while the public school educated upper-middle and upper classes continue to dominate in all the best paid and most prestigious positions, not based on merit but birth. This just continues to fuel social tensions. British tax rates and the out of control property sector make life harder and harder for people to make ends meet while also trying to save for their future and the future of their families. The cost of everything in Britain is very high, the quality not so great and the customer service hit and miss despite the extortionate prices.
Thus, every problem I have listed above has nothing to do with the European Union or Brussels regulations. These are purely domestic, internal matters of the UK. It is not Brussels that can abolish the grotesque carbuncle of the House of Lords. It is not Brussels which can reform the English education system. It is not Brussels which sets UK domestic spending priorities and makes the allocation of funds. It is not Brussels which sets VAT rates. It is not Brussels which controls the regulation of the property sector. It is not Brussels which hands out child benefit to teenage girls or continues to pay child benefit to middle class families who do not need such a subsidy which cost the British taxpayer £12.22bn in 2011-12.
But then, just as the Republican Party in America successfully remade the South red by courting social conservatives culturally while persuading them to vote against their own economic interests, so too have the elite media and the Tory Party successfully brainwashed a great deal of the UK population to believe that everything that is wrong with Britain is due to our membership of the EU. Perhaps, it might be better for Britain to pull out of the EU, only to have to come crawling back in five or ten years’ time. Once this stupid notion that Britain is strong enough, competent enough and wise enough to govern itself is cruelly disabused and there are no more phantom bogeymen in the form of “Brussels bureaucrats” to blame, perhaps the country will finally start to live up to its responsibilities and take ownership over its behaviour and policies, rather than blaming other European countries and institutions.
The UK is a great country, but it could be doing so much better, having been badly let down over the decades by its political, governmental and media elites alike. Every child in the UK deserves the opportunity to realise his or her full potential no matter where they are born or whom they are born to. As Mrs Clinton has said in previous times: “Our children’s future is shaped both by the values of their parents AND the policies of their nation.” It is time to protect the next generation from this unthinking, narrow and time wasting xenophobia exemplified by the Leave campaign and start to put as much energy and focus into how we in Britain can give our children the educational and life standards that our partners at the heart of Europe in Germany enjoy already.