Nigel Lawson’s supposedly authoritative intervention in the debate over the UK’s membership of the EU was not, despite some of the hype, in the bombshell category. But that has not stopped a number of right-leaning politicians and pundits from treating it as one: just as they have for the past quarter of a century, the Tories are tearing themselves apart over Europe.
It is excellent spectator sport, but it is ultimately not good for our Parliamentary system. If the Tory Party breaks apart, whatever the issue, there is no credible right-wing presence in place to keep everyone else honest. The lessons from Margaret Thatcher’s departure, through “Shagger” Major and his not inconsiderable bastards, to William ‘Ague’s pointless “Save the Pound”, remain unlearnt.
Instead, there has been a lemming-like rush from MPs like Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell and Bernard Jenkin, along (predictably) with MEP Dan, Dan The Oratory Man, to proclaim imminent defections to UKIP (Hannan has also decried the clichéd reporting on the issue, but then sprays his credibility up the wall once more by indulging in, er, clichéd reporting on the issue).
There has been loud echoing of Nigel Lawson’s call to leave the EU, despite the former Chancellor of the Exchequer only “suspecting strongly” that the UK would do better on its own, from the likes of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who has asserted that climate change denial (a Lawson speciality) and Europhobia go together because such people are cleverer than everyone else.
This level of serial cluelessness has been exceeded by Charles Moore (Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge), who has trowelled on his acquaintance with Margaret Thatcher in telling the world that, although she had the opportunity but never said so, she had in later life decided that the UK should leave the EU. This is weapons grade bullshit. She would have said so, or got someone else to do it for her.
While Moore and the rest of the punditerati retell history to their own perverse specification, it should be remembered that it was Thatcher who said “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community”.
And, while the Tories and their cheerleaders throw themselves headlong over the credibility cliff edge, remember another party leader, the much underestimated Joe Grimond, speaking back in 1960: “The sad feature is that fifteen years ago, Britain was at the peak of her power and influence, and the leadership of Europe was hers for the asking. We have thrown it away on grounds that have largely proved wrong”.
As you see grown men take it in turn to advocate the plainly daft idea that Britain would be better off out of the EU, read those words and weep.