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EU Referendum

David Cameron’s disgraceful dishonesty over the EU is turning Britain into a banana republic

 Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks accross the pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Road studios with former minister Tessa Jowell (R) in London, Britain, May 20, 2016. 
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron walks accross the pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Road studios with former minister Tessa Jowell (R) in London, Britain, May 20, 2016.  CREDIT: REUTERS FEED


One of the Tory party’s more distinguished parliamentarians told me last week, in deadly seriousness rather than satire, that he thought we lived in a banana republic. He believed there was some truth in a story, going around Westminster, that the Prime Minister would create 25 peerages for those “supportive” in the referendum campaign. Certainly some of the recent ennoblements have seemed like barrel scrapings, pitching into the Upper House for reasons of tokenism people who, a generation ago, would have been lucky to get a job cleaning the place.

People say they want “facts” before deciding how to vote next month, so here’s one to mull over. The EU is a profoundly anti-democratic institution.

Doling out peerages to nonentities because they agree with you is bad enough. But what about the perception that Mr Cameron is doing favours tocaptains of industry in return for vocally supporting his cry to remain in the EU – even by urging shareholders to vote “remain” in company annual reports? And what are we to make of the outrageous imposition of employers telling employees how to vote on June 23? Gladstone had the secret ballot introduced in 1872 precisely to allow working men enfranchised after the 1867 Reform Act to vote without being bullied into supporting a certain side by their employers: a fat lot of good that did.

People say they want “facts” before deciding how to vote next month, so here’s one to mull over. The EU is a profoundly anti-democratic institution. The European Commission, whom no-one elects, initiates policy in the EU. The European parliament, or indeed you or I, can ask it to do certain things: it can tell the parliament, or you and me, to get lost, and that’s that. Charles I tried something similar, and it started a civil war.

You and I did not, for example, vote for those who suggested there should be free movement of people – whether brain surgeons or rapists – in the EU. But this anti-democratic atmosphere, we must suppose, is what makes it entirely natural that Mr Cameron should offer bribes and inducements to support our continued membership of this corrupt and wasteful organisation (for the 20th year in a row its accounts had a level of error, at 4.7 per cent, way above the 2 per cent considered acceptable, wasting almost £7bn a year).

What we should not have to put up with, and what sullies the reputation of this country and the self-respect of its people, is for a question crucial to the liberty and democracy of the United Kingdom to be influenced by third-world abuses of patronage.

More shocking even than this banana-republic doling-out of sweeteners to useful idiots was a question asked of me in a Brexit debate in which I spoke in Hampstead last Tuesday. An entirely sane, rational and articulate man asked whether I thought the vote would be rigged. I was nonplussed, so he elaborated. Would ballot boxes be stuffed? Would they go missing? After all – as he correctly said –widespread electoral fraud, notably with postal votes, has polluted recent general elections: why shouldn’t it happen on June 23?

There is certainly desperation among some senior politicians, because the most important thing on earth – their career – is at stake if there is the “wrong” result. But (and you will forgive me if I am being naïve) I cannot believe that in this country there would be systematic electoral fraud to ensure the “right” result – even though the Electoral Commission, which allegedly superintends these things, seems on recent evidence (widespread Tory expenses irregularities in last year’s general election, and its award of the official designation for the referendum “out” campaign to the utterly unsuitable Vote Leave organization) to be pitifully useless.

Yet I worry that I live in a country where suspicion of ballot-rigging and bribery can exist. When the man asked me that question, others in the audience nodded their heads and muttered agreement. Another cited the outrageous decision by the Government to spend £9m of taxpayers’ money on a thoroughly dishonest leaflet for every household in the land, moments before restrictions on spending in the referendum were brought in. I begin to be reminded of the legendary remark by the great Bill Woodfull, the Australian captain, when the effete manager of the England team on the notorious Bodyline tour of 1932-33, went to express sympathy to him for the unsportingly vicious bowling: “There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not.”

We never expected this referendum to be played according to the Laws of Cricket, or indeed to the Queensberry Rules: like most arrogant school bullies, the likes of Messrs Cameron and Osborne will cheat in whatever way is necessary in order to win. So, for example, they enlist other members of the cosy international club whom they meet at Davos every year, or at the Bilderberg meetings, to express solidarity and urge our continued membership of that other cosy, anti-democratic and corrupt club, the European Union. We expected the bombardment of propaganda, and there will be more, both from here and from Europe. But what we should not have to put up with, and what sullies the reputation of this country and the self-respect of its people, is for a question crucial to the liberty and democracy of the United Kingdom to be influenced by third-world abuses of patronage.

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party's EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016.
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage holds a placard as he launches his party’s EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. CREDIT:REUTERS

That Mr Cameron wrote to the chairman of Serco, which has billions of pounds worth of government contracts, outlining his plan to ask for pleas to stay in the EU in annual reports, while telling the House of Commons he did not rule out leaving suggests he is a liar. At the time, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may not have been able to decide to whom he was lying. We now know it was to the Commons, and the country. Having done that, spraying around a few peerages to deeply unsuitable people, or promising businessmen to see them all right in the long run, may appear neither here nor there.

But it stains him: it stains our public life; it stains our country; it justifies the low opinion millions of people have of politicians; it is indeed reminiscent of the banana republic; and should cause everyone to ask why, on this most important question of our lifetimes that we decide in just a month’s time, we should dare to believe a single word he says.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/05/21/david-camerons-disgraceful-dishonesty-over-the-eu-is-turning-bri/

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