The EU referendum is getting even more heated, which is a bit like saying that the Labour party in Scotland is getting even more pointless or that Ruth Davidson is getting jolly hockey stickier. In the past week alone we’ve had dire warnings from Davie Cameron and George Osborne for the Remain campaign that leaving the EU would provoke the outbreak of World War III and, a prospect which is unimaginably worse for the Tories, would reduce house prices. Meanwhile the Leave campaign’s Boris Johnson has claimed that the EU project has the same goal as Adolf Hilter, by which he presumably meant that Brussels wants to invade Poland and weaponise the boy scouts.
If we leave the EU we’ll never win Eurovision again, although we’ve not won Eurovision since we first voted in 1997 and Europe thought that the UK was going to start acting like a normal European country. They were to be sadly disappointed and it’s been null points ever since, even from places where there’s a large expat British population. As far as the hate figure of Europe goes, the UK is right up there with Russia, only unlike Russia we don’t get votes at Eurovision because no one is afraid we’re going to invade them and hopes that we can be assuaged by voting for our tuneless paean to love and peace. Anyway, the UK only invades the places that America tells us to.
Next week Boris is preparing a speech in which he warns that if we remain a part of the EU every British child will be compulsorily enlisted in the orc armies of Sauron, while George Osborne is counting on a report from the IMF conclusively proving that the UK financial services industry will be carbonised by a fire breathing dragon. The week after that they’re going to start threatening things that really are ridiculous.
Unlike the Scottish referendum where we had the No campaign’s project fear up against a relentless positivism from the Yes campaign which made the Waltons seem like a dark dystopian drama of a shattered and dysfunctional family, there’s very little that’s happy or clappy about the EU referendum from either side. Instead of project fear we’ve got project my fear is way scarier than your fear. According to the Remain campaign if the UK leaves the EU then there will be war, terrorism, economic ruin and the collapse of British industry, with nothing but utter misery for ordinary working people while the fat cats profit at the expense of the poor, whereas according to the Leave campaign if the UK stays in the EU there will be war, terrorism, economic ruin and the collapse of British industry, with nothing but utter misery for ordinary people while the fat cats profit at the expense of the poor. Surprising as it may seem, both sides are quite correct, as both sides are assuming that we’re going to have a Tory government for the foreseeable future.
We’re in for misery whatever happens. This EU referendum is really a proxy war for something far more important, at least something more important to the leaders of the Conservative party, and that’s who’s going to be the next leader of the Conservative party. Whether it’s Boris Johnson, or whether it’s George Osborne, the future for the UK is deeply depressing. Whatever happens we’re in for austerity, public service cuts, creeping privatisation, and the demonisation of the poor, the disabled, the chronically ill, and the marginalised.
It’s not even like there’s a Labour party which is able to prevent it. Labour is currently far too busy opposing itself to organise an effective opposition to the Tories and can’t even land any effective blows on a Conservative party that is openly at war with itself. Well I say currently, it’s been like that for years and will be like that for years still to come. When Labour isn’t tearing itself apart in one of its decades long bouts comradely back stabbing, it’s aping the Tories in an effort to appeal to swing voters in Middle England, so providing an effective opposition to Tory policies isn’t on anyone’s agenda. At least not outwith Scotland. We’re stuck with the unremitting gloom and the depressing vista of grey miserablism stretching ahead of us as long as we’re stuck in this so-called United Kingdom.
George Galloway is on the same side as Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn is on the same side as David Cameron, the best you can say is that at least that’s an improvement on the Scottish referendum when all four of them were on the same side, the four horsemen of the acrapolypse. It’s impossible for anyone to mount a happy clappy campaign with wish trees when the very best you can wish for is that George Osborne stops Boris Johnson from becoming leader of the Tory party. Nae wonder that this is a campaign that’s not exciting much in the way of public enthusiasm. It’s more whoo-pish than whoo-pee.
God, I’m depressed already, and the vote is still more than a month away. By this time next month the very words Question Time will cause half the population to crawl into bed in the fetal position and pull their duvets over their heads while they rock themselves to sleep amidst the tears at the inanity of it all. Although admittedly it has that effect on most of Scotland already.
The Scottish referendum campaign was characterised by top down control freakery on one side, and a mass blossoming of Scottish wild flowers in a grassroots meadow on the other. It was joyous, participatory, and energised a nation. The EU referendum is characterised by top down control freakery from both sides, and it sucks out all life and and enthusiasm from anyone who looks at George Osborne standing with his legs apart or Boris Johnson’s tousled faux-clownery long before Joe or Josephine public come close to engaging with the issues. Both sides have embarked on a campaign to scare us all into submitting to their point of view, battering the obedience into us with threats, scare stories, and nightmares. Don’t think, just be afraid. It’s a very Tory referendum.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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