Will the abuse stop once the referendum votes are counted?


I keep reading on social media that I am an elderly, uneducated, racist mental case. Such is the abuse freely heaped on anyone stupid enough to defy the will of the vast majority of our political elite, and vote to leave the European Union.

Which means that, if the polls are even vaguely right, roughly half the population of the UK is beneath the contempt of all right-thinking people.

referendum polls

Depressing, isn’t it?

As regular readers will know, I have always predicted that remain would win the day on Thursday, because of the sheer weight of economic scare stories their camp would deploy.

And no one can be blamed for putting their own family’s financial security first, even if it does mean throwing away probably the country’s only chance to escape the madness of the European Project before its surely inevitable and painful implosion.

Which is a shame. However, even if Britain reaches the wrong conclusion I am prepared to defend this much-maligned referendum for having served a number of useful purposes.

First, it appears to have impressed upon a great number of people the desirability and importance of actually voting, as the Scottish independence referendum did there.

It has done this because it allows people in every constituency to cast a vote that palpably matters and might just make a difference. Let us hope they can be persuaded to keep up the habit in future elections.

Secondly, it has permitted the airing of issues that have been kept under wraps all my adult life, not least because since the late 1960s pretty much any discussion of immigration has been swiftly closed down on the grounds that it was “racist”.

For me personally, controlling immigration does not even feature in my top ten reasons for wanting to leave the EU. It also matters little to those in the higher echelons of society who are the strongest cheerleaders for remain.

Yet it has plainly bred huge resentment among the traditional working class who have already deserted Labour for the SNP north of the border, and may yet precipitate a similar political whirlwind in England.

How can it ever be right to engineer a radical and irreversible change in the make-up and nature of a country without once asking the people what they think about it?

Thirdly and most importantly, it is finally allowing us to pronounce on the most fundamental political issue of our time: whether we want to govern ourselves or hand that responsibility over to a new European state.

The referendum is badly timed, true. It should have been held more than two decades ago, when the Maastricht treaty made us all citizens of this new country called the European Union. That was the penny drop moment for me, when the mask of the Project being all about co-operation, free trade and increasing prosperity finally fell away.

Like millions of others, I had been conned into voting “Yes” in the referendum of 1975 by the promise that it was all about the economy, with “no essential loss of sovereignty” involved.

The sheer bad faith of British politicians of all parties, their unwillingness to share the truth with the voters or allow them to have a real say on the future of their nation, has been truly staggering.

Messrs Cameron and Osborne have done their level best to repeat the Wilson-Heath trick of focusing on the supposed economic benefits, but after the last few weeks anyone who has failed to grasp the true nature of what the EU is all about really has been in “la la la not listening” mode.

So just as I would gladly subscribe to erect a statue of Gordon Brown in Kirkcaldy for his key role in keeping Britain out of the euro, I’d also be prepared to make a small contribution towards a David Cameron memorial in Chipping Norton for delivering this referendum. And a larger donation if they also sculpt the pig.

One meets the odd shining-eyed idealist who truly sees themselves as European rather than British, and wholeheartedly approves every aspect of the Project, but most remain voters I meet are decidedly lukewarm. Yes, the EU is maddening, undemocratic, over-bureaucratic, corrupt and dysfunctional … but better the devil you know, eh?

Either that or they think in a wishy-washy liberal sort of way that this is all about being “nice” and trying to get on with our neighbours. Well, I try to get on with my neighbours at home, too, but I wouldn’t dream of joining them in a political union that sought to regulate every aspect of my life.

One of the more entertaining, if not necessarily persuasive, advocates of more Europe was the late Auberon Waugh, whose case was based on his conviction that British politicians were so venal and incompetent that the country would be better run by a junta of Belgian ticket inspectors.

WaughPerhaps most of us could have agreed on that, until last week’s tragic murder of an MP most of us had never heard of revealed that some of them, at any rate, are actually first class human beings dedicating their lives to the service of others.

At the end of the day it’s up to each of us to decide whether we truly believe that our representatives in Westminster can be trusted to protect our interests. Can they, or is it only the intervention of the EU that has prevented us from invading France, killing all the fish in the North Sea, polluting our beaches, denying workers paid holidays and sending children back up chimneys?

It’s your call on Thursday. Whatever you decide, please vote. And let us try to stop abusing each other afterwards, because we will still need to live together on this island whether it is part of the EU or not.

After all, everyone in Scotland has managed to kiss and make up, and get on with being a happy part of the UK. Haven’t they?


    • It’s not impossible that leave may yet prevail. Just as it was not impossible that Scotland might have voted for independence. Sadly, however, I do not think it is the way to bet.


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