Saturday, 14 May 2016

Lies, obfuscation and threats

Who was it on Question Time this week who railed against the messages given by both sides in the EU referendum debate? I think it was the Green Party panellist. I found myself (for once) agreeing with the views of a Green Party speaker on this bit of the issue. Frankly, I find the whole approach of the 'Leave' campaign appalling.

Every time somebody from the UK says anything that has any traction it is rubbished - from John Major to Mark Carney. According to the 'Leave' group these people don't have a clue and by the way they speak it seems they also dismiss the right of legitimate speakers to profess a view. At times I start to think that their behaviour is nothing short of bully-boy tactics. Attitudes towards President Oboma also highlighted some distasteful attitudes (not least Boris Johnson's reference to his Kenyan origins).

For me, the clincher was when ITV chose to field Nigel Farage against David Cameron. The response from 'a senior member' of the 'Leave' campaign was to warn that 'there will be consequences' for ITV. That is nothing short of a threat 'do what we say or we'll come after you when we have power'. I note that the leader in question was not named.

This is all very ugly, and to me provides a clear warning against voting to leave. I won't deny that there are aspects of the EU that I don't particularly like. Indeed, on some days I might be persuaded to vote leave. BUT, the one thing I think is clear is that if we vote to leave, there will be political turmoil.

David Cameron's position will be untenable. Those in the 'Leave' camp who say that they would want DC to stay on to lead negotiations are overlooking (or recognising) the fact that once we have voted to leave there will be huge expectations from the electorate on what the leave deal will look like. Privately, a good many know that the hype that is promoted about a UK-specific trade deal is highly unlikely to be realised and that 'negotiations' will be protracted and messy. They then need a fall-guy and David Cameron is being set up for that too. So, I would urge David Cameron to resign immediately if the country votes to leave.

That leaves us with a real dilemma. It means that the bullies will be in power, and frankly this campaign has convinced me that there are some very unpalatable elements within the 'Leave' campaign. Nigel Farage may be considered toxic by the leadership, but parts of that leadership are to my mind just as toxic.

So, is there a risk to European stability if we vote leave? Well, I think one could construct a plausible scenario where we vote to leave, the bullies get into power and the UK becomes isolationist because it cannot get its way. Would that stretch as far as armed conflict? Probably not in the short-term, but I think there are very severe tensions developing in Europe that could well have resulted in war in the past. Today, the political environment of the EU almost certainly stops such a problem, but there are frightening parallels between the World today and the World in the 1930s (especially bearing in mind Vladimir Putin's track record in the Ukraine).

I fear that the 'Leave' campaign are not being at all honest with the electorate. Or, if they do honestly believe what they say, they are terribly naive. Either way, those are not the qualities one looks for in politicians. My instincts are that it is time for a new centrist party to emerge; one that embraces the best of the centre-left and centre-right. Time for the resurrection of the Social Democrats.