“Why won’t Dave give the British people a vote on Europe?” thundered the unfeasibly pompous Simon Heffer in today’s Daily Mail, adding that the Tory Party “has never been straight with the public” on the EU, and that this is part of a “shabby tradition”. Heffer also asserts that such a vote “affects the way we govern ourselves as a country and the way we spend our money”.
So we can take it as read that the Hefferlump demands a referendum on EU membership, which by happy coincidence chimes with the view of his legendarily foul mouthed editor. He also manages to paint Cameron as a “committed pro-European”, who is somehow scared of a referendum revealing “the true depth of anti-EU feeling in the country”.
To which I would point Heffer in the direction of a YouGov poll on the subject carried out recently and quoted by Dirty Des’ finest at the Daily Express. Although the headline dishonestly claims “Three Quarters Of Britons Say Quit EU Now”, the actual figures, when respondents were given an additional choice of “renegotiation”, were just 28% for withdrawal, with 47% choosing renegotiation.
Moreover, when the question was put as a straight in/out choice, just 52% - a bare majority – chose to leave the EU, with 31% for remaining inside, and a whole 17% undecided. Were the Commons vote to confirm the move to a referendum, there would then be a campaign – and not just for the antis. The electorate would be in danger of becoming properly informed about the EU.
That might not sound such a deal breaker, until one considers the line taken at present by a variety of media outlets. Whatever accusations are levelled at it, the BBC does not (and indeed cannot) take a stance on the EU, and neither does Sky News (“first for breaking wind”). Nor do any broadcasters whose news coverage comes via ITN.
And in the print media, there is very little pro-EU coverage: papers like the Guardian and Independent attempt to be as impartial as they can. Those taking a stance – the Desmond press, Associated Newspapers (the Mail), the Telegraph, and the Murdoch press – are all opposed, for a variety of reasons. But with all those titles throwing (a lot of) mud at the EU, only a bare majority wants out.
Moreover, the continuing hyperbole from the likes of Heffer on how the EU “directly affects our lives” assumes that the statement is true, and that the electorate rank it sufficiently high on their list of priorities. William ‘Ague wrongly assumed they did in 2001, and little good it did him. Some hacks out to get out more and listen to the people on whose behalf they claim to speak.