Politicians are expected to have a ready-made answer to every possible issue that might arise. Those that do are usually referred to as “conviction” politicians, and those that don’t are often accused of either having no principles, or else of thinking too much.
I have been asked quite a lot about how I am going to vote in tomorrow’s referendum and I have found it a very difficult decision. Generally I have always been a Eurosceptic in the sense that I find the desire of the EU to extend its reach into ever increasing areas of our lives intrusive and unwarranted. I also have an instinctive suspicion of any government which is not democratic. Not democratic in the sense that those who wield the power are not elected, cannot be removed by any popular vote and owe their position to political patronage.
There are people whose views I respect on both sides of the debate. I have friends who are convinced that their earning power is linked to our continued membership. As someone who speaks French to a pretty high standard and can just about get by in German, it is assumed that I must be in favour of Remain. Further, as someone who takes the vast majority of his holidays in the EU, surely I would not want increased border controls or a weaker pound? Others suggest that I would not want to be in the same company as Nigel Farage, George Galloway and David Icke? Certainly I would not want to be associated with them, but when I go to watch a football match, or support the England cricket team, I don’t inquire as to the politics or personal views of the other spectators. Just because you agree with a disagreeable person on a particular topic does not mean you are part of their circle.
The quality of the debate has been appalling. On the one hand the Remain camp has been unable to advance one positive reason why we should stay. With every passing week the scare stories have grown increasingly lurid. George Osborne and David Cameron have lost a considerable amount of credibility as the campaign has worn on, with Osborne’s “Brexit budget” speech the worst of a poor lot. On the Brexit side the star has been Gove, but the most recent poster put out by Farage and UKIP was the most unpleasant example of dog-whistle politics that I have seen for some time. Whilst it is perfectly legitimate to raise the issue of immigration, the use of a line of brown faces as a reason to vote Leave was straight out of the gutter.
No-one can safely say whether the decision to leave or to remain will prove the best choice economically. I accept that there will be some turmoil if the we vote Leave, certainly in the short term. But I very much doubt we will be excluded from the free trade zone because the Germans and the French export more to us than we do to them. Ultimately, for me the economic issue is a red herring – or a neutral issue. The real issue, as ever, is democracy.
It is a fundamental requirement of a democracy that those wielding power must be answerable to the electorate. If you do not like the current Conservative government then, in just under 4 years time there will be an opportunity to vote them out. In Brussels, the real power is vested in the Commission. Their members are never up for election, and cannot be removed by any popular vote.
When the old EEC was mainly a trading club, the fact that its rule-makers were not elected did not really matter. They were administrators, glorified civil servants. But over the past 30 years the direction of travel has been obvious. The EU aims to be the central government for all the people within its territorial area. Whenever a problem arises the answer from Brussels is that more power must be ceded to the Union. It now has a passport, a common currency, a national anthem and is developing armed forces. But its government remains entirely aloof from the democratic process. It is a technocracy and worse than that, a technocracy whose leaders have shown contempt for the democratic process, as has been shown when referendums in France, Ireland, Holland and Denmark were all re-run after minor concessions when the answer given was not the one the functionaries wanted.
I cannot accept that arrangement. It offends against the entire trajectory of English history from Magna Carta to the Suffragettes via the Civil War and the Reform Acts. Power has, over the years and sometimes after painful conflict, been transferred from the elites to the masses. The EU as presently constituted is the enemy of that process and for that reason I shall be voting to Leave tomorrow.