Blustering Bunter of the Dacre press Simon Heffer has delivered his latest sermon on Europe. Entitled “The cynical lie that leaving the EU would destroy Britain: The majority of people now want out of this bloated dictatorship, we at least need a referendum”, it at least demonstrates a conjunction of rambling incoherence with irrational prejudice. But the cynicism goes beyond mere assertions.
Leaving aside the Hefferlump’s strawman proposition, and his amateurish attempt to tie the EU to some or all of the Third Reich, Italian Fascism, Francoism, The Regime Of The Greek Colonels, and the Estado Novo, this rant is merely another exercise in the cynicism which it pretends only lies with others. In Heffer’s case, this is the cynicism of frightening his readers to keep them buying papers.
But he is preceded by cynics in power, first and foremost one James Harold Wilson, who used the then European Economic Community as part of Labour’s election manifestos in 1974 (there were two General Elections that year), then claimed to be “renegotiating” the terms of the UK’s membership (in effect a fig-leaf), and then held a referendum on membership just to hold his party together.
Thus the cynical use of Europe was established, and has been growing recently, as both press and politicians have milked the issue for their own advantage. The Fourth Estate churns out reams of knocking copy attacking anything they dislike about the EU – and making up anything not based on fact – while using the European Project as some kind of convenient bogeyman.
Politicians are to a large degree worse: they, after all, are the ones doing the decision making and therefore guiding our future. Before last year’s General Election, Young Dave shamelessly used the EU as a way to garner votes. Then he’s talked tough on the subject while in office. He is as responsible as anyone for the bout of referendum fever.
But, as he wasn’t serious in the first place, Cameron now has to damp down referendum speculation, against a backdrop of misinformation – Heffer’s piece is typical – stoked by his own actions. Both hacks and rebellious Tories use the issue to paint Cameron as inferior to Margaret Thatcher, while managing not to notice that she never came even close to calling a referendum on the EU.
In fact, apart from Wilson, no Prime Minister has seriously offered a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. So pretending that Young Dave is soft by comparison is pure drivel. And so is the opinion poll frightener: now it’s 49% out versus 40% in. Before the 1975 poll there was a 2:1 majority for leaving. The vote revealed a 2:1 majority for staying. Go figure, assembled cynics.