I fully intend to rant about other subjects and, in due course, about the result and future plans.
Before I begin, I should like to link to Lord Ashcroft's explanation as to why he is voting Brexit and to Sam Bowman's (of the Adam Smith Institute) as to why he is voting Remain.
First of all, let me explain that I do not have a particularly high view of Lord Ashcroft's or anybody else's opinion polls but his own view point was interesting to read as I agreed with a great deal of it.
Forget the hysteria. Leaving the European Union would not put a bomb under the British economy or end western political civilization as we know it. But nor would it mean another £350 million a week being spent on the NHS, and staying does not mean that 80 million Turks will arrive at Dover. For voters struggling to make sense of the referendum campaign, this sort of thing has hardly helped.Indeed not. While I see nothing wrong with the fact that the campaign on both sides was heated (though more light would have been welcome) I do think the hyperbole, to put it at its most polite, has been appalling. I am not impressed by politicians, who know that nothing they say can every excite the sort of fervour that remaining or leaving the EU has done, whingeing away about the coarsening of political discourse. Coarsening? Have a look at the discourse of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Now, that was coarse. But one look at both campaigns makes one despair of human reason.
Lord Ashcroft makes the point that to remain in the EU is not to choose stability as developments will happen and they will not be of our making. Therefore, the choice is between two kinds of instability and which one would you prefer?
Of course leaving would create uncertainty; any worthwhile venture carries some risk. There will be new deals to negotiate and new relationships to form, and it may be rocky to start with. But when it comes to trade with EU partners, and other areas where cooperation is vital, pragmatism will surely win the day – and as I know from my own business career, there are plenty of opportunities outside Europe.Sam Bowman takes a different view though not in everything. He, too, dislikes many of the arguments used by the Leave campaign about immigration and about the economy. Then he tackles the main issue:
But most importantly of all, this is a decision for the long term future of the country. The question is not whether the world’s fifth largest economy could prosper outside the EU – of course it could – but whether we should tie ourselves to a union whose ambitions are so very different from our own. Maybe our future governments will be able to protect Britain from the worst of them. But why take the risk?
I like and respect many Leavers, but I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for democracy – I want liberty and prosperity, and I don’t want to trade that in just to give my stupid next-door neighbours more power over my life. To the extent that the EU does restrict democracy it is often for the best, preventing governments from doing nasty, illiberal things (like restricting immigration or subsidising domestic firms). There’s a small chance that a Jeremy Corbyn could be elected – if he is, under the British political system he would have basically unlimited power to do whatever he wants. The EU limits that power, and in my view that’s a good thing.Why limiting the power of the people, often expressed in a remarkably stupid way, should be a plus in an organization where other bodies have no limits is not something I can understand. But I think that people should be able to read the liberal/libertarian argument for Remain. Mind you, I have no desire to hear complaints from Mr Bowman either when he finds that what he gets is not what he voted for.
I have written before about a number of things I have found wrong with the Leave campaign but did not mention that I disliked the focus on immigration and the endless chanting about Turkey coming in. What started as a perfectly sensible point about controlling our own borders, part of democracy and accountability and on being able to decide who can get welfare and social housing became a distasteful attack on immigrants, not really softened by the occasional comment about a points system or rational immigration. The issue became central to the campaign to the exclusion of almost all other matters. As it happens, I do not think that has won any votes apart from people who were already going to vote Leave. Oh, and Turkey is not coming into the EU any time soon. What David Cameron does or does not say about it is irrelevant - he will not be Prime Minister by then.
What of the event that was supposed to change everything and give Remain a great advantage, the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP. Any words one uses about the actual event will be trite and inadequate but, moving on to the political significance of it, I do think that my first instinct that it will make no real difference was correct. The swing back to Remain would have happened, was going to happen and was predicted by many of us: it is the natural move towards the status quo that we all expected. It was obvious that the 6 to 10 points' lead was not enough to counter that. On the other hand, the swing was no bigger than expected either. Despite a number of efforts on the part of the Remain campaigners, the electorate, so far as we can tell, did not fall for the narrative that this was all caused by the nasty Leave campaigners. Can any of them be really as nasty as Alistair Campbell in this tweet sent two days after the murder?
Once again, we can be grateful that we live in a country where such an event is so rare as to be unthinkable (until it happens, of course). Curiously, though over the last few months I have overheard many discussions on the referendum and Brexit, as well as taking part in many such, often with casual acquaintances from a non-political world, I have heard nothing around me about the killing. It is as if people cannot quite believe it has happened. What one did hear was strange sentimentality from the media, politicians and political geeks. The idea that an MP is honoured by the people of her constituency being deprived of the right to vote for a candidate from the other main party is bizarre and yet there were people tearfully asserting that David Cameron made the right decision in denying that democratic right.
The number of sitting British MPs assassinated since 1812 is eight: Spencer Perceval, who was also the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated, by the somewhat unhinged John Bellingham because of private debt; six from Lord Frederick Cavendish, killed in Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1882 to Ian Gow in 1990 by Irish terrorists of various organizations; and now Jo Cox, whose murder is still being investigated. That, thankfully, is a very low number.
That the Remain campaign tried to cash in on the event has been well documented here, here and here Will Straw (son of Jack), who is apparently campaign chief for Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) was particularly obnoxious in his instructions to his troops as reported by Guido and, surprisingly, the Evening Standard. Of course, we shall not know until tomorrow (and really not even then) whether the secular canonization of a fairly average left-wing MP of whom most of us had never heard before will succeed. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, they say, but surely that does not apply to politicians. Therefore, I have great pleasure in linking to a somewhat tart but entirely accurate account of the real Jo Cox and her husband here. I do not suppose it will affect anybody's voting intentions but do read it if you can. I do not necessarily agree with everything the article says but it is true that Jo Cox was not among those politicians who had tried to unravel the deeply unpleasant saga of the gangs who were grooming children and teenagers and she, together with her husband, were there on Bob Geldof's boat, shouting abuse at the fishermen. Yes, I know they thought it was a UKIP stunt and I was outraged by Niger Farage hi-jacking the flotilla for his own purpose (it had been agreed that he would not be seen to be leading it but the only way to ensure that would have been not to allow him on it) but the boats were full of fishermen who, we all agree, suffered mightily from the EU. In the case of the Coxes', people of the Labour and NGO elite, sympathy begins a long way from home.
And that, I think, is enough about that. I have also said enough about the campaign to make it clear why I have not been happy with it and why, I suspect, it will not be successful. I may be wrong but would it really matter if we lost this referendum. I have never been a great fan of plebiscites and the dire level of the campaigning justifies my wariness. It looks like the result will be close and that will mean the the winners will not be seen as enjoying legitimacy. If we win, we shall need to make sure that the victory will have some kind of meaning and is not frittered away by unhelpful politicians and civil servants; and if we lose we shall have to start thinking of the next stage: prepare for intellectual guerrilla warfare.