Referendums are exceptional in UK, but it is likely one will take place this summer. In a very little time loyal subjects of HM Queen Ltd are going to be allowed to vote ‘remain’ so they can stay not quite part of the European Union. Of course, an illusion of a free vote on such an important issue must be maintained, so there will also be an option to vote ‘leave’ the EU altogether. My advice is, don’t bother with it.
Those who think for us are anxious that a substantial number will select that option. But not too many. It would be embarrassing, after all, if the ‘remain’ vote was 70 or 80%. Allegations of ballot-rigging would abound, protest groups would make inconvenient noises. No, a sixty-forty split in favour of remaining should be sufficient, and could be proclaimed a ‘landslide’. The people would have made a truly democratic decision – wouldn’t they?
The truth is, most democratic choices are reached undemocratically. Unless someone behaves exceptionally clumsily, the choice with the most money behind it always triumphs.
As an exceptional curmudgeon and inveterate old-stager, I look back with nostalgic affection to days when simple propaganda was the parent of choice – when we, the rebellious people could be persuaded by a leaflet or two, a ‘Government Information’ film, or an authoritative educational lecture to see the error of our ways and return to the fold of opinion advocated by the great and the good. A stentorian voice would instruct us to put aside foolish dreams of freedom and individuality, and we would obey. A penny off the tax on alcohol, threepence off tobacco would induce us to simper pleasingly and rest content.
I marvel at the array of tools which augment the present day spin-artist’s box. Democratic manipulation is an intricate art, and rather like the Rolls Royce which is the last fading symbol of British engineering, its function should be as undetectable as it is silent, working smoothly beneath a well-polished exterior. To assist our informed choice all the arguments in favour of staying with the EU or leaving it will be put, all information our masters feel we need will be fed to us. Coverage of salient points and consequences which affect us most will be impeccably balanced while that big engine murmurs discreetly, driving the ‘remain’ vote relentlessly forward.
On the face of it, the ‘remain’ crowd have a difficult task to convince us. Like so many innocent children the ideal of a Common Market grew up to be a hideous monster. It has few pretensions to democracy, and many ambitions as a neo-communist state.
Das Kapital (formerly known as Brussels) makes the rules, issuing random edicts from behind featureless doors whilst exacting tribute of millions of pounds every day. Membership has destroyed Britain’s fishing industry and well nigh a third of the world’s prime fishing grounds, inflicted a common agricultural policy which works very effectively if you own a French smallholding, and bestowed laws upon us which, though commendable in theory, make their simplest practical applications expensive and unworkable.
So tightly stitched is the bureaucratic sack not one of these issues was even up for negotiation when our Prime Minister and knight crusader, David Cameron, sallied forth to challenge the Faceless Ones; to throw down the gauntlet on subjects such as immigration and Benefits, promising us he would sow the seeds for ‘real change’ within the European Union. The Faceless Ones made some noises. Cameron came home with a purse full of very watered down concessions to feed to the serfs; concessions, it turns out, that could be contrary to International Law, and likely to be voted out anyway by the European Parliament once his referendum is safely over.
No ‘real change’ then?
Honestly? None. Affecting change in the EU is a thankless task, unless it is undertaken by the core members, France and Germany. Every door knocked responds with the same bland ‘occupé’. So how does that immaculate engine ensure GB votes ‘remain’?
Well, bearing in mind that the balance of argument must be preserved, the spinners turn to those who are making the argument: thus, all who support the ‘remain’ cause should be seen as upright and dependable, with a fairly low bureaucratic profile. Those arguing to ‘leave’ must be high profile, iconoclastic figures given to excitement, air-headedness and cant. Of course, you can find examples of each character type in either camp: the skill exists in massaging public perception. Thus Boris Johnson of the wild hair who wants us to vote ‘leave’ is something of a coup for the ‘remain’ camp. We British, you see, don’t really like the amiable eccentric, no matter how clever and politically astute. We abominate political falsehood, yet we recoil from those who tell us the truth.
(aside: a current British nightmare is the prospect of Donald Trump as President of USA, Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister, and Vladimir Putin as President of Russia – it could just happen!)
For or against, all those to whom we bend an ear must make their case in interview. And the interviews will be strictly impartial in all respects, except in the opinions of the interviewer. A good journalist can always swing an argument in his favour, without putting a word out of place.
Then there is fear. The remain camp have all manner of ‘fear’ arguments to justify membership. If we leave, we are told, our economy will collapse, our export trade with Europe will become complex and difficult. The value of the Pound will diminish. There will be unaccountable natural disasters and we shall all have to move to Bradford.
A few examples, then, of the spinner’s craft. These incipient messages are carefully managed and discreetly scattered so we hear them whilst still believing we are being offered balanced argument. The advantages of unfettered immigration will be propounded – after all the British Isles can safely nurture a population of two hundred million before the entire country is concreted over and people begin to fall off the edge. Wise and logical warnings – that our health service, our social services, our police force and our infrastructure are already stretched to breaking point – will be gently tilthed over by entreaties for common humanity and the need for compassion, thus paving the road for anyone who preaches prudence to be treated with righteous disdain.
Only if the vote to ‘remain’ looks seriously jeopardised will the big guns come out. Only then will the vote-winners which are known to always sway the serfs be brought into play: higher interest rates and more taxation. By the 23rd June, when the referendum takes place, the machine will have ensured that the balance is safely in the ‘remain’ pocket. However, should a disaster occur and we outdistance the opinion polls; should a ‘leave’ vote prevail, no matter: the government will step back, enter a protracted exit negotiation, the EU will dangle a few more meaningless carrots and a second referendum with subtly altered wording will follow.
So, my message to anyone who is interested: vote ‘remain’ on June 23rd. It will save us all a lot of trouble.