I am a sceptic about Le Grand Projet (what's that you say - you'd already noticed) but I have never been completely unpersuadable. However the great project of persuasion as led by our ghastly Prime Minister is already making me less so. What a load of meretricious, patrician claptrap. I can identify exactly the point at which I finally consigned Cameron to the bin of odium. Here it is, from his interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday:
I think the prospect of linking arms with Nigel Farage and George Galloway and taking a leap into the dark is the wrong step for our country.Well if you are in the unfortunate position of being Michael Gove (a 'close friend' of the Boy Cameron but one who has dared, poor misguided state educated pleb that he is, to deviate from his boss's gilded wisdom) you might very well ask, with friends like Dave who needs enemies? So politics is to come down to this is it - if you find yourself on the same side of an argument as two such clownish figures as Galloway and Farage, then you must be wrong. Well let's take this a step further shall we Dave? Galloway and Farage are, in the end, peripheral in the greater game of politics, they are totems of what someone (though no one seems certain quite who) termed swivel-eyed lunacy. We will return to this designation later. Now here's a thing: it is my judgement that a figure far from peripheral in British politics was Alastair Campbell, Blair's despicable spin-doctor. This is what he tweeted almost as soon as Cameron had left the Marr sofa:
You won't hear me say this often, but that was a very impressive interview by [Cameron] The pro-case is overwhelming.Thanks Alastair. Debate closed then. Thank goodness, now I can have my life back and concentrate on things that really concern my sort of person. What sort of person is that? The sort of person, actually, who resents what you and Clive Woodward did to the reputation of the British Lions by your arrogance on the 2005 New Zealand tour. That major blot on your escutcheon aside, I am a big man and I accept that there will be things on which you and I might agree. My point? Here's what Cameron could equally validly (that's to say not very) have said to Marr: 'I think the prospect of linking arms with Alastair Campbell and wading yet further into an irretrievable constitutional mire is the wrong step for our country.'
While we're looking at some political 'scoundrels' let's now consider one long since dead but who remains polarising - Enoch Powell. I take no stance for his incendiary language on race and immigration but there is great value to be had from his percipient analysis of the institution that became the European Union. Have a look at what he was saying on the very night that the electorate last voted on the question of membership - Enoch Powell 1975 . This is interesting stuff - what would, I think, have most astounded Powell if alive now is that we have still not twigged the point on nationhood. If anything the discussion has descended to a less wholesome level, because nobody now is being honest (as Powell generously, a generosity others including myself have not mirrored, conceded Heath was being) about the 'abnegation' legally implicit in membership of such a union. My own distinctly unpowellian and therefore inelegant analogy has been to liken sovereignty to virginity - once given away it's bloody difficult to get it back. What the Prime Minister tells us is that we are 'a special case' and that we can have 'the best of both worlds' - which sounds to me a little like being a virgin whilst at the same time putting it about rather indiscriminately. This analogy of mine breaks down (as do most I'm afraid but they help if taken with a pinch of salt) when it comes to the question now before the country, because it translates as 'Do you want your virginity back?' Thus I come to my own rescue and reconfigure the question as, 'How about being celibate for a change?' Or perhaps it should be 'How about the choice of celibacy or a remarriage?' Like I said, analogies break down. Where I will draw the line (and here I gree with the PM) is at gerrymandering the question to be, 'Would you like to get divorced and then remarry the same spouse in a different church?'
What I'm trying to point out is that this is interesting and, yes, important stuff. So let's see what the interesting and serious people are saying about it. Not Galloway, not Farage, not Cameron, not Corbyn (whose damascene conversion on the topic is positively wondrous), not Osborne. But yes to Sturgeon, and yes even to Salmond who, once you get beyond the instinctive tory-baiting, always has a point. Who are these serious people? How to distinguish them from the swivel-eyed lunatics? Here's some candidates on both sides. I will venture fewer on the Pro side, simply because you can find them aplenty - try the backbenches of both sides of the House, or try a plc boardroom or the partners in the behemoth mega-accountants. The orthodoxy of the political class is theirs. Try for example these two: Hilary Benn and Michael Heseltine. Benn is particularly intriguing because of his difference from his famous father, Tony Benn. Those who ungenerously speculate that Tony Benn would be 'spinning in his grave' at Hilary's orthodoxy, couldn't be more wrong. They miss utterly the point that Benn Senior gloried in plurality. This made him unfit for modern office. As for Heseltine he may not be quite the historical figure that he had hoped but he is genuine. He has built businesses and has quietly used his own money on the campaign trail over the years. A case of putting his money where his mouth is but without the self-serving vulgarity of Doanld Trump.
As for the Antis: Frank Field, long a favourite of this blog - This Deal Is Awful ; Gisela Stuart - definitely not one of the usual suspects, a native German who has given fabulous service as a Birmingham Labour MP - Gisela Stuart: Guardian . With some caution (no one likes to be ridiculed) I also suggest Iain Duncan Smith. That the piece I link - IDS on EU - is from the Daily Mail perhaps says something about my snobbish hesitation, But hey ho it's out there now so let's run with it. A former serving soldier and a Roman Catholic without university education - might it be too wicked to speculate that the PM finds him beyond the pale? Yes it probably would.
You can pick holes in the motives of all of the above, though this is hardest in respect of the three socialists, Benn, Field and Stewart. However I find all my examples more trustworthy and informative than a Prime Minister who is so convinced of his rectitude that he misrepresents the facts of the recent negotiation and takes snide potshots at sincere opponents. Do I expect a higher standard of behaviour from our first minister? I think you know the answer to that one. Call me old fashioned.
Which just leaves Boris. The knowing line of the political insider is that Boris's sidling into the 'Out' camp is unadulterated careerism. If that truly is the case then damn the man to pieces. I genuinely hope that analysis is wrong. Whatever, here is the link to his piece in the Telegraph on Monday. There are some cheap descents into journalistic myth (the summary of daft EU legislation is not entirely fair) but on the whole it is, as you would expect, scholarly and well-written. I am a trained reader between lines (I'm a lawyer after all) but I do not detect any of the nastiness that has invaded Cameron's tone. Perhaps I've been conned. Again. Sincerity or Vaulting Ambition?
You decide. That's the point.