Please Brits, stop pissing on your own doorstep!

No, Owen, you cannot go on Question Time
again till you finish your homework.


by Sir Thomas Crapper

The UK is “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of-Europe, a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island”.

Emma Thompson said that. Sadly, I was just about to pick up the phone and propose to her when the Guardian headline caught my eye. Obviously I’m heartbroken not to be marrying Ms Thompson. But such a downbeat assessment would have got in the way of domestic harmony.

Similarly, in any discussion of the EU referendum, I interrupt anyone who uses the term ‘Little Englander’.

“You’ve just lost me,” I tell them.

As far as it’s possible to tell, the Little Englander mentality has pretty much died out. Great Britain last practised ‘splendid isolation’ in the 19th century. It wasn’t terribly successful, despite the fact that we had a vast Empire to draw on for all our needs and a super-dominant Navy.

The main problem was that in conflicts like The Boer War, we lacked for allies. European conflict began to look more likely as the 19th century turned into the 20th, so we once again made alliances. Splendid Isolation had lasted, in effect, for only five years.

Those who were born within living memory of Splendid Isolation are long since dead. And we waved goodbye to the last bits of Empire post WW2. No-one alive today knows of the British Empire as anything but history.

But the Left loves to try to make dissenters from their cause feel small by calling them ‘relics’ and ‘reactionaries’, somehow imprisoned in a version of the UK that no longer exists; Little Englanders, and bigots to boot.

In fact, in the 21st century, it is the Left who are the reactionaries. They still cling to the hope that the squalid and discredited theories of Marx and Lenin will somehow be reborn, carried in on a golden chariot, welcoming a new era of collectivism that we will all be pleased to subscribe to.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Owen Jones (how does he get his homework done?) wrote in The Guardian less than a year ago: The Left Must Put Britain’s EU Withdrawal On The Agenda (read it here).

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, has been unrepentantly anti-EU all of his political life. Voting against the Maastricht Treaty, Corbyn said: “It (the treaty) takes us in the direction of an unelected legislative body. And will, in effect, (be) imposing foreign policy on nation states that have fought for their own democratic accountability.” (More here).

And then there’s Paul Mason, who could so barely swallow his disgust with capitalism that he finally left Channel 4 News so that he could rant at will.

Just last October, Mason railed against the EU (he had, quite rightly, been disgusted with the treatment meted out to Greece): “The architecture of power in Brussels is faceless: it seems to embody the determination to dissolve political tradition into a monolith.”

And: “The sheer size of the EU directorates makes them susceptible only to two kinds of influence: global corporations and pan-national industry lobby groups.”

And what are these three – Mason, Jones and Corbyn – telling  us now?

That we should vote to remain. Well. Blow me down.

To be fair to Mason, scathing as he has been about the EU, he did seem on balance to think that we might be better off staying.

And yet still, only two weeks ago he said: “The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime.”

So, that’s where we want to stay, is it, Mr Mason? As for Owen Jones and Jeremy Corbyn, their conversion to the ‘stay’ side can at best be called pragmatic. Corbyn grandstands about labour laws etc and how the ‘case for the EU is overwhelming’.

Contrary to Paul Mason, Corbyn says: “Our membership offers a crucial route to restraining the power of global corporations and ensuring they pay fair taxes”. Well, who’s right, Jeremy, you or Paul Mason?

Why are we listening to these people? If they can turn on a sixpence in the space of days, weeks or months, why should we believe anything they say?

The truth is that in this referendum debate, all the principals are lying, speculating or conjecturing. Nobody knows anything, so they take a set of statistics – social, economic, whatever – and spin them in their own image. All the blustering from world leaders and big business is just that – bluster. Even Barack Obama has been caught out exaggerating. (More on that another day).

But worst of all is the talking down of the country that has nurtured us all. People talk about ‘the English condition’ as if there was no such thing as ‘the French condition’, or ‘the Lithuanian condition’. Pissing on your own doorstep just creates an unpleasant smell.

Please, please (are you paying attention, Emma Thompson?) approach the voting booth with confidence – in your own ability to make a choice without listening to all the chattering monkeys; and in the ability of your country to thrive whatever the outcome.

Thank you. Now – where did I put that phone number for Helena Bonham Carter?

 

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