IT IS tempting to wonder if David Cameron now regrets his decision to hold a referendum on Europe.
Did he make the pledge believing he might not win a second term anyway? Did he think convincing everyone to vote ‘in’ would be a breeze? Who knows, but what a simmering stew of nastiness and negativity he left on the nation’s overheated stove.
The most depressing aspect of this debate has been the way immigration dominates the discussion. This has long been the topic few politicians wish to discuss, and perhaps their past reticence has added petrol to the bonfire of inanities we are seeing now.
Nigel Farage and UKIP long ago understood that waiving the migrant card played well with core supporters. As easy game but the rules are brutal. Exaggeration is key, inflating the numbers to feed the fear. And then blaming migrants for all our problems, everything from housing waiting lists to not being able to see a GP.
There is usually no proof immigration caused these social difficulties, but pointing a finger at the outsider is all too easy.
The quitters appear to believe that if Britain leaves Europe the immigration question will somehow go away, yet likely as not we will continue to absorb as many immigrants as we do now.
The whole question is just so emotive. Are the migrant-sceptic Leavers saying they want no more immigration at all? Surely no one believes such isolationism would be good for Britain?
A healthy country requires an influx of people; a healthy world has to see people passing from one country to another.
Many of the ‘problems’ blamed on migration could as easily be seen as the fault of unrestrained global capitalism or, more locally, cuts made by this government. All those headlines about claiming back our borders should depress the hell out of anyone with a mind broader than a pencil.
Just now I heard the Tory MPs Priti Patel on the radio, and if that isn’t enough to make me want to jump off my ledge, then I don’t know what is. What a supremely condescending and annoying person she is. Put her and Iain Duncan Smith in charge and we’d all be queuing up to leave (not Europe, as they wish, but the country to escape).
Patel talked up the benefits of leaving Europe, explaining how ‘our’ money would be spent, as if she were delivering an election manifesto. The Leave lot promise a vague this and an even mistier that. And most of it is as reliable as that made-up figure of £350 million a day being sent to Europe – as flourished with shameless abandon by Boris Johnson.
Their certainty that leaving Europe will bring days of endless sunshine is, I guess, matched by the Remain contingent’s forecast of endless economic clouds if we quit. And sunshine is an easier sell, even if it is only the promise of sunshine written on the back of crumpled wish.
In all the debates, not enough has been said about the peace and stability the EU has brought to the historically troubled countries that make up Europe. That is the biggest benefit of Europe, and yet it hardly gets a mention amid all the shouting. If you have time, seek out Gordon Brown’s impassioned plea from within the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. It’s a truly powerful testament for remaining in Europe.