Forty years ago, voters went to the polls in the first ever nation-wide referendum to decide whether or not the UK a should remain a member of the European Economic Community. The Yes camp won by a comfortable margin. Everyone who mattered had come out in their favour; the No camp consisted of some on the Left (in the days before Euro-communism) and a few, much derided, miserable prophets of doom.
What is more, the public had been led to believe, quite reasonably, that this was a referendum on open markets, on trade with Western allies while the West was still clearly physically marked by walls and barbed wire. The people had spoken, and this mandate has been used long past its sell-by-date to cement us deeper within the European Project. But in retrospect the whole referendum campaign was a farce. It was conducted blindly and without equal time and resources being allocated to each camp, and, most importantly, it was conducted without any honesty or real forethought as to the significance of continued membership.
Imagine that in a few years time, voters are about go to the polls to decide on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. The Yes, or ‘In’ campaign has a disproportionate amount of cash (just like in 1975) mostly provided by multinationals who benefit from both the homogenising of Laws and Regulations, as well as cheap, migrant labour across now non-existent borders. There are also diplomatic efforts (just like in 1975) to persuade us to remain in by nations which would benefit from having an English-speaking ally in Brussels. These nations also contribute to the Yes campaign’s coffers (just like in 1975).
All of the mainstream media, especially the BBC, are biased towards the Yes camp (just like in 1975). Even the Daily Mail has a sudden, damascene change of heart about Brussels. They are complicit with their friends in various think-tanks and companies, and threaten voters with everything from race-riots to famine if we were to pull out. No campaigners are targeted by the same attack dogs for indiscretions which any Yes campaigner would be forgiven, by virtue of them being Yes and therefore ‘cooperative’ and ‘open’ and ‘collegiate’.
On the political front, Cameron will finally get some cosmetic ‘renegotiation’ of terms (just like in 1975) from Merkel, but only after months of ritual humiliation which leads him to finally dig his fingernails into her squeaky polyester sleeves while sharing a solitary moment, spitting through his gritted teeth, “Throw me a bone, Fraulein, or they will vote no!” The Tory press will spin this as a great victory, and some will be stupid enough to believe it.
The whole establishment, both European and British, will hardly hide their glee as Britain seals its fate and signs up to remain forever tied in a supranational, corporatist dictatorship. “The proles, they will have their referendum!” they delight while handing back a champagne flute to an underpaid Romanian waiter. That’s until Nigel Farage stands in the meadows of Runnymede and declares, “This referendum is a stitch-up and, what I’m asking you to do, the British public, both UKIP members and voters, is to boycott it.”
This didn’t happen in 1975.
Nigel’s former Senior Advisor, now of this parish, has already written in the Spectator about why he thinks Farage must lead the No campaign. I agree with him on of all his points. Nigel is the only person who can speak to the working class vote. More to the point, he’s the only person who understands them and is genuinely moved by the plights of those the establishment decided a long time ago to abandon.
As someone who helped on his campaign in South Thanet, I can think of no better communicator. His ‘pint and fag’ image is much sneered at by some in the press, but that’s only because its genuine and shows him to posses human empathy, something the callous political and media class now lack. A person can imagine having a pint with Nigel. No serious person can imagine having pints with 99 percent of the Members of the House of Commons.
But I digress. The real reason I think Nigel should lead the No campaign is because he would be the only person powerful enough to call for a boycott if the referendum terms of engagement were to be found wanting.
He and the rest of the UKIP team must be prepared to hold this card up their sleeves and use it if necessary. It would bolster Nigel as a national leader, still able to affect change despite narrowly not winning a seat in the Commons. This would in turn give him a platform to radically influence and lead for change in other areas. It would also cause some delectable fuss. I don’t think our ruling class would know quite what to do, which would at the very least make enjoyable theatre in itself.
But this is no laughing matter. The upcoming referendum may well be our last chance to remove ourselves from EU rule, to once again become a proud, free and independent nation, able to make her own laws and able to once again trade with the world. It is almost certain that it is an opportunity which can only be taken once, with a Yes vote closing the door forever on a Brexit, ushering in the Euro, further political union and a slow stripping of all of our remaining institutions and other nice-to-haves, like a flag and a monarch.
It is therefore UKIP’s responsibility to be uncompromising in our demands for a fair and free process. After all, I joined UKIP for a Brexit, not a referendum. And the only thing worse than no referendum in this case would be a fixed referendum.