Thursday, 11 February 2016
In a battle of visions, Ukip loses.
Europhiles want the same thing as me. They want a united, democratic, clean and peaceful Europe that freely cooperates. Where we differ is that they have chosen a means that is entirely anti-ethical to those ends and will likely produce the exact opposite.
Ukip on the other hand doesn't want that. It doesn't want to cooperate with the EU, it doesn't want to be open and most of them can't wait to delete swathes of regulation that improve the functioning of things. The only thing they are right about is that the EU is not a democracy, which is why I find myself on their side of the divide.
I am entirely immovable on this, and nothing David Cameron can secure will ever change the fact that the EU is, and was always intended to be, a supreme government of Europe with the ultimate say over what we do. No matter how strong the economic arguments may or may not be for remaining, nothing can trump the need for the people to have the last word in their own affairs.
But of the two competing visions, Ukip's vision is certainly the less attractive one. The more kippery tweets and Facebook comments I see, the more deflated I feel about our chances of leaving the EU. Certainly the row over whether Leave.EU should adopt Flexcit or not revealed the core psyche of Kippers, which is to slam the door shut at any cost, regardless of the complexities, contradictions and improbabilities - blissfully unaware that best estimates for leaving the EU in such a fashion only brings immigration down to roughly where it was when Ukip first started moaning about foreigners.
And it's through a slow drip of dog-whistles from Farage and the likes that the case for a more reasonable approach is made ever more difficult. In the end Arron Banks bottled it and caved in like a coward. He couldn't see the big picture and consequently his campaign continues to vandalise any chances of leaving.
They've managed to whip themselves up into the delusion that they are right and that they represent the majority and because, largely by accident of numbers, the polls show a momentary slight lead, they think their approach is effective, thus are even less likely to heed any advice. They insist that immigration is the winning ticket. It isn't, but in any case, the electorate may be asked to choose on that very basis. Freedom of movement or single market.
Kippers think the public will side with them - but they won't. They will be asking themselves if immigration really affects them enough to risk their job. Ukip will find they are in the distinct minority on that score.
Already we have seen that 86% of the public wouldn't vote for Ukip. And of those who did, a core of the party will be less obsessed by immigration than the new breed. They're the ones who joined to leave the EU. And so the self-defeating obstinacy is what will likely ensure the message remains as hostile to compromise and cooperation as possible. In that, the Leave camp will look and sound very much like Ukip did during the election. Blustering, bigoted, disorganised and stupid.
Were I not practically born into euroscepticism, without the exposure to the arguments as to why the EU is not a democracy, I sincerely doubt I would be siding with them at all. Many people will vote on the basis of which side they identify with the most.
Ukippers paint the picture of a broken Britain ravaged by foreign forces, driven into decay and poverty - but most of us looking around us without the hate blinkers will just not recognise that their Daily Express dystopia exists. Bristol looks great these days, Leeds is thriving and Bradford has never looked better. The narrative that EU has driven us into the dirt just doesn't stand up.
In any case, we opened up the gates to immigration long before we signed up to freedom of movement - and as far as immigration goes, I can't say it's any skin off my nose that there are more Polish people in Bradford, Reading and Edinburgh. Put simply, I don't even care.
Thus, if you're telling me we should cut our noses off to spite our face simply because you want to stop immigration, I'm not going to vote remain, but Ukip could very well push me toward an ambivalent position. Those who like me who are less involved though will probably vote to stay.
Moreover the lack of a plan can't do the Leave side any favours. You can't be making all these mutually exclusive claims that trade will continue as normal and keep every last penny of our budget contributions. People will gradually learn the distinctions and realise that the things you're promising them are false promises. And then, they will rightly conclude that Leavers are clueless whingers who don't know what they want or how to get it, and are making unrealistic demands on the basis of poor intelligence. Who would vote for that? Not me.
So, well done Ukip. Good job on alienating a huge swing vote demographic. Take a bow. You just blew the referendum for yourselves. Happy now? No, course not. Losers never are. Course you could stop and have a rethink. Stop and ask what are you offering people who don't hate foreigners as much as you clearly do?