Imagine you’re one of 28 passengers on a small aircraft whose pilot has gone mad. Barricaded into the cockpit, he’s unmistakably heading straight for the mountains that lie ahead.
Despite the co-pilot hammering rather insistently on the locked door to the flight deck, your fellow passengers seem strangely calm. Resigned, perhaps, to their fate.
Then a steward appears by your side and quietly offers you a parachute.
Clearly, taking it would be a risk. The chute might not open. Even if it did, you might be horribly injured in the fall. You might land in the middle of a motorway or a fast-flowing river.
On the other hand, it offers the chance of escape from what appears to be a desperate situation. And, after all, it is not as though you have never done a jump before. Until 43 years ago, it was second nature.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the best analogy I can devise for the dilemma we face in deciding how to vote in the forthcoming European referendum.
Clearly, there are risks in both staying and going. But the balance of advantage seems to me clearly on the side of voting “Leave”.
Those of us who are old enough to vote in the last referendum in 1975 cannot avoid a weary sense of déjà-vu (see what a good European I am!) as events unfold.
First the Prime Minister returns from Brussels claiming to have triumphed in a comprehensive renegotiation that has, in practice, achieved virtually nothing.
Then the bulk of the political class coalesces in a concerted attempt to put the frighteners on the general public. We are warned that, if we vote to leave this wonderful Common Market / European Union, we will all be much poorer and far less safe.
Their campaign is helped by the fact that the other side’s leaders seems to be mainly mavericks, eccentrics and downright nutcases – Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Enoch Powell in 1975, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and George Galloway today.
It was mainly the strong left-wing bias of the “No” campaign that stupidly led me to vote in favour of our continued membership of the European Community 41 years ago.
Yes, I read the dire warnings of what the Continent’s leaders were intent on the Community becoming, but they were dismissed as nonsense by serious politicians I thought I could trust.
Well, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Whatever our pro-EU leaders may try to tell you, the Union is an avowedly political project intent on creating a single European state in which national parliaments will have no more significance or clout than county councils.
Its flagship project, the euro, was never designed to make Europe more prosperous but to provide the leverage needed to create a comprehensive political, economic and fiscal union. The collateral damage in the trashed economies of southern Europe was predictable enough, but considered a small price to pay to achieve this grand plan.
In short, the ideologues driving this project are every bit as barmy as my hypothetical pilot.
Yes, there are risks in making an exit, but there are far greater risks in staying put. Don’t let anyone kid you that this has anything to do with the prosperity of you and your family.
England, and later Britain, was a sovereign state for a thousand years before we joined the European Community in 1973, and it is feeble in the extreme to argue that a nation of 64 million, a nuclear power, permanent member of the UN Security Council, home to the world’s leading financial centre and cradle of its international language, is too small and insignificant to make it on its own.
We should be excited by the glorious prospect of independence that lies within our grasp, just as our former colonies were when they slipped the chains of empire in the last century.
I certainly am. Apart from anything else, 23rd June should be a lovely summer’s day for our Independence Day celebrations in the future.
Come with me, grab that parachute and let’s embrace the freedom of doing things our own way, as we did so successfully for so long.