Tuesday, 17 May 2016
The wrong kind of Leavers
There are times when I want to Leave to lose this referendum. When you are at the coalface every day trying to make reasoned arguments only to be drowned out, undermined and embarrassed by the noise makers, you can't help but think we deserve to lose.
That is not to say for a minute I want to stay in the EU, and will always be offended by the very idea of supranationalism but when the debate is reduced to the wold view of europhiles versus the dogmatic eurosceptics I become entirely ambivalent.
The worldview being advanced by the eurosceptic blob is that Britain should leave in order to make every last one of its laws, to have total control over who comes in and out and to end cooperation on any level with the EU. Not only that, they seek an entirely hostile withdrawal. They may not realise this is what they are saying but that is what they infer.
The implications of what they propose are far reaching and disturbing on a number of levels. Moreover, the attitude behind it is wholly unattractive. That is why I don't think it can win. Rather than walking toward something, we are walking away from something for its own sake.
Richard Buckminster Fuller, American theorist and philosopher said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” That is what the Leave campaign has not done. It has offered no real vision and no alternative save to say that they want Britain as a free trading independent nation.
That is not really a vision. It's a bland statement and as rhetoric, it is every bit as empty as the Remain campaign. To simply say the act of leaving is all we need to do to reach that utopian ideal is adolescent in the extreme. It doesn't pass the credibility test at all.
Fanciful notions that we will have "a bonfire of regulations" doesn't even begin to address the reality of the age of globalisation and to assume one can do such a thing without serious ramifications, without even being able to specify which regulations is just not on this planet. Then, in the face of scrutiny, to lay along with a collective delusion in the hope that it can pass a majority is not only dishonest but also suicidal.
To simply bleat "wrong then, wrong now" is all very well but it does not get anywhere near addressing the very real concerns of opinion formers, and the insolent way the Leave camp shrugs off criticism without offering an alternative wins them no influential friends. If we didn't have the same same basic objective I would be fundamentally opposed to the Leave campaign and were it a party I would not vote for it.
When it comes down to it I want to win for the right reasons rather than hoodwinking the public to get us to leave then dump the entire responsibility for what comes next on the government to sort out. If leaving the EU is the only objective and Brexit is considered mission accomplished then this whole exercise has just been an ideological act of vandalism which is not actually designed to resolve anything. Not least least because Brexit will not in any way be a free licence to burn regulations.
The real objective of Brexit objective is reform. We seek to reform our relationship with the EU and we seek far reaching domestic reforms. We want close cooperation with the EU but we do not wish to be governed by it. And in this we turn the negatives of Brexit into a positive. They sternly warn us that Brexit means parliament will be occupied with nothing but that process for the next twenty years. Even Boris Johnson has written newspaper columns to that effect in the past. But that's no bad thing.
In fact, it's wholly a matter of how you choose to view it. Either you view it as the process of leaving the EU or the process of designing a complete overhaul of Whitehall down to the local government level. It would be the first serious overhaul since the war. It would be the most far reaching revolution in governance and something we have been crying out for for a long time.
For me, the marginal difference ending freedom of movement makes is scarcely worth the trouble and when we're running a £90bn a year deficit I really couldn't give a tinker's damn about EU budget contributions, and coming at this as an adult, the arguments for deregulation are just crass.
I take the view that euroscepticism is stale and out of date. It has lost its way. It doesn't know what it wants or why which is why it's having such a tough time selling this to the public. They know that Brexit will unleash Britain's potential, and I don't doubt that, but their diagnosis is entirely wrong. This is mainly about power. Who has it and to whom are the accountable. Instead, Leavers are distracted by the peripheral issues and because they have nothing to offer in place of the EU we are reduced once more to pointless debates about bananas.
And so, with a strong suspicion that Leave has already blown it, I am casting my vote with little hope. But I'm sanguine about it. You see it's not just the Leavers who are dinosaurs cast adrift with no ideas. It's the whole political system. Labour hasn't got the first idea why it wants power and what it would do with it. The Tories have no idea either. Their record of u-turns show them up to be entirely without the political stomach to make even marginal changes. The only fresh thing on the menu in recent years has been Ukip and look what a shambles that was.
And then there's the europhiles. They cling to the EU out of fear because it's the only political constant. They're entirely parochial and completely oblivious to the world of governance that exists over and above the EU - and they don't want to know either. Sam Hooper said it best in a tweet yesterday "Feel genuinely sorry for people whose vision & ambition is so small that they believe sheltering in the EU is somehow "embracing the world". The whole debate is land of the dinosaurs.
But Brexit will come of its own accord for the right reasons eventually. To paraphrase Churchill, You can always count on the British voters to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else. And we are pretty much there already.
We still have to go through motions of a bit more tinkering with our voting rituals and mess around a bit more with the house of lords, and we'll probably have to indulge the politicians as they try a bogus experiment in faux-localism, but eventually the penny will drop that it doesn;t matter which way you arrange the deck chairs, you just can't have an effective government when it's riding two horses.
When that penny does drop, that we need a complete overhaul of domestic governance, and there are very clear consequences for putting the power in the hands of the EU commission, it will be abundantly clear that the EU is the obstacle to reform and an expensive luxury we don't need. When that happens we will have a referendum and it will be a cakewalk. A landslide.
It may actually be that we need a few more years of a toxic political landscape for the message to sink in that this Euro-ennui is the cause of our existential crisis and it may be that losing the referendum makes leaving all the more likely as leaver get to clear out the dead wood like Hannan, Johnson, Farage, Banks and the IEA Toryboy morons.
But all the same, I am still fighting to win, not least so we don't lose badly. I hope we win, I really do, but it will be more through luck than by judgement, and if anything wins it for us it will be our utterly dishonest crook of a PM and a condescending Remain campaign.
In that eventuality there will be a vacuum of ideas and we really will see just how intellectually bankrupt classic old school euroscepticism is. The libertarians will be shown up as the frauds they are. It's worth winning just to watch that happen. In either scenario, there will have to be a reckoning. Personally I think losing is what it will take to discredit the eurosceptic blob and force a renaissance of political thinking. They have been too caught up in decades old narratives and it's starting to show.
In the final analysis there is only one real certainty here. We are leaving the EU. It's just a question of when and how. I would like it to be sooner but suspect it will be later. I won't be downhearted if we lose because then it will be certain that we leave for the right reasons and will lead by the right people. This referendum has switched a new generation on to what the EU is and we have a crop of new recruits. Next time we won't make the same mistakes. Just a pity that Britain has to suffer in the mean time.