Facts. We need facts on the upcoming EU referendum. No-one should have a problem with that proposition, and so it was that I was initially intrigued by the claim of the loathsome Toby Young that he was, in a short video, going to give us the facts. For once, Tobes would have something useful to say. But I was soon to be disappointed.
Tobes told his viewers about laws that require unanimity among EU member states, then discussed majority voting, and then he slipped in his first whopper. As more and more countries joined the EU, he asserted, it would be more like a United States of Europe. Oh dear, Tobes! Let’s take this nice and slowly: when did the USA become the USA? Was it when there were lots of states? Just after the Louisiana Purchase, perchance? Did it wait until after California was added to the Union? False proposition, Tobes.
But fear not - Tobes has an ace to deploy: “in the past 20 years, there have been 72 occasions when Britain has opposed a particular measure on the Council of the European Union. On all 72 occasions, Britain has been outvoted”. The total number of EU laws and directives being passed into law in that period, taking Tobes' pal Matthew Elliott at his word, is around 24,000. So we get our way 99.65% of the time - and Tobes still isn’t happy.
Then we get a swipe at the European Court of Justice (which is in Luxembourg, and that means it’s foreign): “In 1983, the ECJ ruled that Britain’s low duty on beer as proposed by Nigel Lawson in his 1981 Budget” begins Tobes. Facts, Tobes, facts: Nigel Lawson did not become Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1983.
Surely, though, Tobes will be on firmer ground with the percentage of new UK laws coming from the EU? Sadly not: his claim that 59% of new laws “originate in Brussels” is debunked even by one of his pals in the Out camp. Daniel Hannan claimed recently that Norway adopted 9% of EU laws, but in fact that is 9% of all Norway’s laws. Norway adopts around 75% of EU laws, which suggests David Cameron’s estimate that 13% of all UK laws come from the EU is accurate. Not going very well, is it, Tobes?
Have another go: “In the EU, laws aren’t made by the European Parliament. Nor are they made by the Council of the European Union. In the EU, laws are made by a select group of 28 officials known as the European Commissioners” he reveals, before going on to ask “Do the people of Europe elect these Eurocrats? No. Can the people of Europe kick them out if they do a bad job? No. All 28 of them are political appointees”.
Where do we start? Quite apart from his using video of the Barroso Commission, which is no more, the Commissioners can indeed be kicked out, and that of Jacques Santer was kicked out, their resignation forced by elected MEPs. Plus Tobes is peddling a red herring: the Commission can initiate laws, but cannot pass them - that is down to the European Parliament, which is democratically elected. Facts, Tobes, facts.
Claiming to present facts, and then presenting a slanted and selective view of them - together with a little falsehood and misinformation - is no better than providing no information at all. And someone let Toby Young run a school. Without being elected.