Monday, November 16, 2009

Is something stirring?

A seriously disturbed commenter on ToryBoyBlog has described the Boss of EUREf as “a bitter ex-UKIP researcher” and, without bothering to find out how to spell my name, added for good measure: “His partner is the dreadful helen Samuelly who manages to antagonise anyone she deals with.” As the person in question hides under the name of Better Off Out and gives no website or blog link I cannot tell who it is though I suspect that his or her suggestion that we are paid either by the EU or MI5 (if only!) is libellous. One cannot sue someone who is too cowardly to give a real name and, clearly, Tim Montgomerie and Jonathan Isaby are not responsible for some fruitcake who chooses to comment on their blog. But I thought our readers on this blog might like to know. My response, I thought, was a model of restraint.

The somewhat unpleasant discussion is going on in response to a posting by Tim Montgomerie, entitled The Future of Euroscepticism. I shall refrain from making some obvious comments about Conservatives, euroscepticism, streets, being bitten and recognizing. Mr Montgomerie, staunch Tory though he is, happens to be a member of Better Off Out. (We noted its re-launch in April and updated a few days later.)

The idea of being lectured by Conservatives at this stage in the game on whither euroscepticism is going would be quite infuriating if it were not quite so ridiculously funny. Tim Montgomerie, I am sad to say, compounds this problem by starting his posting with this sentence:
It's been a disappointing few weeks for Euroscepticism and for the Eurosceptic movement but The TaxPayers' Alliance are leading the way in consolidating popular unhappiness at the EU.
None of that is exactly accurate but one cannot blame organizations like the TPA and Conservative Home from closing ranks in the six months before the next election. The truth is that the last few weeks have not disappointed any real eurosceptic or so I shall call them for want of a better name. We expected nothing else from the Boy-King of the Conservative Party. Indeed, this blog and EURef predicted several times that he would duck out of a referendum. We also predicted that eventually the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty will go through.

On the other hand, we are convinced (well, I am convinced and the Boss is coming round) that this was a pyrrhic victory. The dirt and nastiness of the last eight years, which is how long it took to get this treaty through, the bullying and shameless manipulation have all contributed to turn many people’s opinion against the EU. The notion that we might actually come out and survive is gaining ground, if very slowly. What worries the Conservative Party and its outposts as well as front organizations (Open Europe, TPA and others) is that they might not benefit from this change.

The other slight error is the one about the TPA “leading the way in consolidating popular unhappiness at the EU”. Actually, the TPA is reversing the debate by concentrating on financial matters: how much we pay in and how utterly fraudulent is all is. These points have been discussed for decades with very little effect.

Given the general incompetence and lack of honesty in governments and regulatory authorities in this country, other countries and the EU, most people fulminate a bit when having a drink with their friends then shrug their shoulders and move on. It is the other issues, the lack of accountability, lack of democracy, destruction of our constitutional and legal system and the appalling regulatory structure whose aim seems to be purely destructive that rouse real anger in people.

That is why the issue of the Lisbon referendum has become a flashpoint: this was specifically promised by all three (well, all right, both) parties and both, Labour and Conservatives, have reneged on it. No amount of discussion about the cost of it will make up for that. And that makes the last few weeks exceedingly good for real eurosceptics – dead wood is being cleared out.

If Conservative Home, the TPA and such blogs as Iain Dale’s are all cautiously probing the idea of Britain being outside that organization, one can safely say that there has been something of a shift in the debating positions. Mr Dale, incidentally, makes two very good points. In this posting, which is really about a forthcoming BBC programme on what would happen if Britain left the EU, he pours contempt on the europhiliac position that we would be out on our own with nobody trading with us.
Ridiculous. As if European businesses wouldn't want to sell us their goods if we were outside the EU!
Indeed. And I agree with him on Lord Pearson’s comment that “they would be glad to get rid of us”. They would not be all that glad and not just because of the money we put in. As it happens, Britain is one of the most enthusiastic members, always thinking of new regulations that cannot be passed back home and have to be imposed through the EU, as well as implementing rules as soon as it is required and sometimes before.

I also find it amusing that Mr Dale reminds the TPA that their famed new cinema ad is quite similar to an old 18 Doughty Street video.

Well, what of the TPA’s new cinema advert? There are, as it happens, strict rules about political advertising in this country and all the TPA could do is produce what must have been a reasonably expensive ad for their new book, Ten Years On Without The European Union by Dr Lee Rotherham, the TPA’s expert on the EU. The books is free to all who order it, so Tim Montgomerie’s comment about 22,000 ordered already is not all that meaningful. Would people pay for it, is the question.

Anyway, I have not seen the book yet as the TPA are reluctant to reply to my e-mails. (And what do you expect, hmmm? I hear someone muttering.) So I have to go by what they say on their website about it.

The book is a sort of a utopian fantasy about Britain being outside the EU and managing very well, thank you, all the problems that, for example, small business owners faced being the fault of the EU. There are other blogs that deal with farmers, fishermen, MPs and the workforce (there’s an expression from the glorious past). All tell us how wonderfully easy life will be outside the EU.

Well, there is no harm in it. People should get used to the idea that there is life outside the EU though it might be more useful to examine how we get from here to there and to accept that there will have to be many negotiations, agreements and reforms before we can achieve the state of utopian ecstasy. The trouble is that once you start talking ordinary politics people might ask awkward questions. Much easier to present a rosy picture that rather mindless eurosceptics accept and gloat over while the rest of the country continues to shrug its shoulders.

A more interesting point is the BBC. The idea of a programme, broadcast this evening at 8.30 and repeated on Sunday, 22nd at 10.30 (all in the evening) about the very possibility of Britain being outside the EU is intriguing.

The article on the website makes two points that we, on this blog, would find it hard to disagree with:
Up to 55% of those asked in recent British opinion polls say they would support it. But it's hardly ever discussed in polite political society. What is this great taboo? Britain leaving the European Union.

After all the constitutional wrangling and embarrassing referendum results within the EU in recent years, reluctance to talk about this among the EU mainstream may be greater than ever.
They then spend some time discussing the so-called heresy that in the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty there is a possibility of a member state leaving, without explaining that the decision depends largely on other member states agreeing to it. And so it goes, with the usual canards about Continental member states allegedly thinking that it would be a good thing if Britain left, for which there is no evidence; europhiliacs threatening us to a return of boiled mutton and cabbage and so on and so on.

None of that matters. Even if the programme this evening is absolutely dire, what really matters is that the BBC has decided that this subject needs to be aired and the question to be asked is whether Britain can survive outside the EU. The BBC asking that is a little like the Pope wondering whether that chap Luther had a point after all.

We have complained (whined, some people might say) in the past that we have been sidelined and our work not acknowledge while other, grander, better funded and less well researched programmes have been touted by the media and other members of the political class. But we can, severally and together, take some credit for this change in attitudes.

Finally, the best evidence yet: Daniel Hannan, darling of the Tory eurosceptics has written a blog in which he sort of makes the case for Britain leaving the EU. It is, as you will note, complete with one of his usual videos and, well, um, it turns out to be another plug for the TPA and Mr Hannan’s old friend, Dr Rotherham. So, as usual, Daniel Hannan, MEP is treading very carefully. But, at least, he mentions the unmentionable in the heading.

UPDATE: I have now received an e-mail from the TPA, which informed me that they had not got my own missives (entirely possible), offered to send me the book (I said as I had done before that I can pick it up) and thanked me somewhat ironically for giving a "grudging" plug to their Great EU Debate. As the Boss of EUReferendum said to me, even a grudging plug is more than any of our blogs gets for them. Could we join the great debate? Should we rename EURef as The Great Eurosceptic Blog?


  1. Graham Dawson (archonix)November 16, 2009 at 8:59 PM

    You, Helen? Working for the EU? Surely they were joking!

    Were they on drugs when they said that? If you find out what it was they were taking, please let me know, as I'd like to sample it.

    Why, oh why has the sceptic cause gathered so many breathtakingly insipid egotists? It's as if every single one of them would rather see the entire effort fail than allow someone else to share the credit for victory over the EU.

  2. That crack about not disturbing is really very funny, cool headed reply, it probably caused great dissapointment, well done.