“Peers v. People”: the EU referendum campaign appeared as a remake of the great debate a century ago, and like most remakes it was not up to the original. The recast Peers certainly filled their roles, and robes. “The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters, / The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers, / Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees, / Industrial lords and petty contractors”—and here we part from T.S. Eliot, for these eminences did not all go into the dark. They bustled into the light, assuring us of the catastrophe that awaits the land should their wise words go unheeded. The Establishment, the elite, the ermined folk, including those hoping to be ermined by David Cameron’s bounty, spoke with one voice: REMAIN! The massed choirs of the Establishment sang the Ode to the Status Quo, which for them is the Ode to Joy. So did the acting profession, widely known in England as “Luvvies”, 282 of whom signed a letter on the national poster-wall, The Times, denouncing the LEAVE campaign with all the moral fervor of the theatre. But then actors have always derived their view of the world from other actors. With them came spectral figures of the past, such as John Major, still lauding his pro-EU career, which he intends to protect—embossed. He and others such as Michael Heseltine rose up to defend their designated legacy project, the EU. “The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead/Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.”
The High Priests of the Establishment, David Cameron and George Osborne, played their parts ignobly in the national charade, Project Fear. Cameron denied he had ever been warned that limiting immigration was impossible in the EU. His one-time advisor, Steve Hilton, had asserted the truth. Amusingly, Cameron warned that Brexit could lead to war: when challenged in the Commons, he replied “The words World War Three will never pass my lips!” at which some rudesby on the Labour benches shouted out “They already have!” At his final TV appearance before an audience—he has never risked a proper debate, with a formal equal—the audience openly laughed at him, to the wonder of the BBC commentator. A citizen there asked him if he were not the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century, coming back waving a piece of paper. Again, there was no real answer. George Osborne has gone in for a series of forecasts, compared with which the Apocalypse might seem light relief. This man has confidently predicted the economic state of the nation 14 years ahead, while he has recently demonstrated that his forecasts, backed up with the Treasury, collapse over four months. But then Osborne’s forecasts have always hovered between astrology and chiromancy. The hand he reads is his own.
The campaign was rigged from the start, vastly to the advantage of REMAIN. Households were flooded with Junckermail, expensively, while LEAVE had got neither its act nor its money together. And while REMAIN was evidently run to a single controlling purpose, LEAVE was funded so as to guarantee divided counsels. The main VOTE LEAVE group had different priorities from UKIP. They emphasized the economy—the strongest suit of REMAIN—while Nigel Farage’s UKIP has always seen immigration as the primary issue, which they kept separate from VOTE LEAVE. Hence the sensitive Left, together with the remainers, followed the policy of GET FARAGE. Matters came to a head after the murder of the Jo Cox, MP, by a deranged man, at the same time as Farage issued a poster depicting that famous drone shot of a column of migrants advancing round a corner into Europe. The caption BREAKING POINT was too much for the Left, and when Parliament came together to pay tribute to the departed MP, Stephen Kinnock broke the all-party convention to launch a vicious attack on UKIP. Kinnock, it should be remembered, is the scion of a dynasty that has done well out of the EU: the family has acquired much wealth from it. Neil Kinnock the Elder was Commissioner, his wife was MEP, Stephen Kinnock was employed by the EU and married the Prime Minister of Denmark. If the EU ever gets round to its own supplement to the Almanach de Gotha, then the noble family of Kinnocks will surely add its lustre to the great houses of Europe. But LEAVE threatens the future career prospects of Kinnock the Younger, hence the bitterness with which he assailed the poster. Kinnock stands cipher for the entire EU countries, all of whom face the horrid prospect of a pay cut when Britain leaves. To understand the apparent clash of principle on the issue, one has only to observe an ancient injunction: Follow the money.
That poster contains the heart of the matter. There is no possibility of Britain, as a member of the EU, controlling its immigrant flow from Europe, since the doctrine of free movement of people prevails there. The British Government can do nothing about it. It is a puppet government, jerked and twitched from Brussels and Berlin; the leaders kow-tow to power. George Osborne is caressed by the smiles of Christine Lagarde, who hopes to become President of France. David Cameron values his warm personal relationship with Angela Merkel—who did not consult him before announcing the blunder of a decade, the open invitation to a million migrants to come to Germany. The rest of the EU is now being called upon to pay for Merkel’s promise. One wonders though if the personal relationship is what it was. The story goes that when Cameron became Prime Minister, he invited Angela Merkel to visit him in Chequers. She admired the great 16th century mansion, set in beautiful countryside at the foot of the Chiltern Hills. It is the ultimate lifestyle reward of Prime Ministers. And Cameron said: “Just think, Angela, if things had gone differently, all this could have been yours.” The thought may have lingered.
The great debate orbited to its landing, cheered on by the media with its train of coolies and water-bearers for the nomenklatura. The outcome shocked a continent of believers. If sterling had hair, it would have turned grey overnight. But the people had spoken. G.K. Chesterton said it best:
Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget.
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.
Well, we have now.