The EU is “arrogant and unaccountable”; EU membership makes Britain “literally ungovernable”; the EU is “anti-market” and “stifles competition with its statism, corporatism and bureaucracy”; it’s “perfectly obvious to everyone” that the EU is incapable of reform; Britain will be much better off out of the EU.
Even from a known Brexiteer such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, these words would be pretty strong stuff. But coming from Steve Hilton, they are absolute dynamite: a devastating blow to the Remain campaign and – given that it was starting to look both unassailable and rather cocky – a perfectly timed one too.
It matters because Hilton, perhaps more than anyone, can lay claim to having “made” David Cameron, transforming him from an obscure backbench MP into Prime Minister material. Hilton has advised the Prime Minister on and off throughout his period in office and is still one of Dave’s closest friends. Well at least he was till the publication of this blistering broadside in the Daily Mail.
Here’s a taste:
It is anti-market, stifling innovation and competition with its statism, corporatism and bureaucracy.
It is anti-enterprise, acting in the interests of the big businesses that have corruptly captured the levers of power in Brussels through their shameless lobbying and insider deal-making, enabling a gradual corporate takeover of our country.
The European Union is anti-trade, locking developing countries out of world markets with its evil Common Agricultural Policy that feather-beds French farmers while keeping African farmers trapped in poverty — and despair.
Then we’re told that the EU is vital for our security. Really? I was pretty amazed when I first heard this point being made. The idea that a British Prime Minister can’t protect Britain properly without the EU is frankly astonishing and, if true, rather alarming.
But, of course, it’s not true. Yes, in a complex world of global threats, we need security co-operation with other countries — like what happens in NATO. Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but I wasn’t aware that this referendum is about leaving NATO.
But perhaps the most powerful argument for leaving the EU is to look at the people who are wheeled out to persuade us to stay: figures like the International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, advertising giant Sir Martin Sorrell, as well as the Confederation of British Industry and all the other Establishment stooges.
They want us to stay in the EU because their whole world depends upon it. Their lifestyle of summit meetings and first-class flights and five-star hotels; their flitting and floating from New York to Brussels to Beijing, serving the interests of the technocratic elite — the bankers, bureaucrats and accountants who run the modern world and who, regardless of which government is in power in which country, push the same old dogma of global-isation, privatisation and centralisation.
This represents by far the biggest blow to David Cameron personally and also to the credibility of his pro-EU argument since the official referendum campaign began.
It was bad enough losing Boris Johnson – the most charismatic and popular figure in the Conservative party. And even worse losing Michael Gove, who apart from being a close friend is the main source of ideological integrity and intellectual heft in the Conservative party cabinet, as well as Cameron’s chief (unacknowledged) joke writer.
But to lose Hilton – who up until now had been saying he wasn’t going to get involved in any blue-on-blue fracas – is perhaps the biggest disaster of all. It is a rejection of everything Cameron stands for politically by the man who understands him best.
What Hilton is doing here is re-enacting the scene in Frankenstein where the hero Victor finally realises he has created a monster that has got completely out of control – and that really it would be better off dead.
Without Hilton, David Cameron might still be languishing on the back benches or in some pointless ministerial role like Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Hilton was the man who helped propel him to the very top.
They first met as long ago as 1992 while working – together with another spotty young upstart George Osborne – at Conservative Central Office. In 2005 he was the man who advised Cameron to run for the Party leadership and – arguably – made him electable by “detoxifying the brand” and encouraging him to adopt touchy-feely slogans like “hug a hoodie” and “vote blue go green”, as well as by helping to stage the stunt where Cameron was photographed with huskies in the Arctic Circle worrying about melting glaciers and climate change.
Many natural conservatives will never have forgiven Hilton for this. It is, after all, classic “cuckservatism” or what Americans might call RINO squishery. I used to think this way myself until I realised the fundamental difference in attitudes between Hilton and Cameron: for the former, all that stuff was essentially a marketing move – a means to the end of gaining office and doing more important, effective, cleverer stuff once in power; for the latter it’s an end in itself.
This might make Steve Hilton sound devious or cynical or unprincipled but he’s not. He’s the exact opposite of those things – which is yet another reason why his attack represents such a devastating blow to the Cameron project: it’s like being told by your Dad that you’re a complete disappointment to him – he gave you every advantage and you’ve just thrown it all away.
Whereas Cameron is in politics because he finds power quite congenial, Hilton is in it because he genuinely wants to make a difference. Despite his hippyish traits – the trainers, shorts, bike and rucksacks; the greenery; the blue-sky thinking – Hilton is at heart a classical liberal who’d probably agree with Ronald Reagan that “government isn’t the solution to the problem – government is the problem.” Hence his growing disenchantment with the Cameron Project as he began to realise it was little more than a cosy clique of public schoolboys with private incomes and no appetite for radical change because, hey, who needs radical when you’re on a ministerial salary with ring-fenced pension rights?
Still, Hilton is definitely thought of as a Moderniser rather than an old school, Tory reactionary. And this, of course, makes it much harder for Cameron’s team of hatchet men – the same ones who got on the blower to the Dowager Duchess Lord Heseltine the other day and said: “Your ladyship, we need you to be vocally offended by Boris Johnson’s use of the word ‘Hitler’ – to dismiss his article in the Mail as the rantings of some insane xenophobe from the shires.
Hilton, as the beginning of his piece makes clear, writes from the perspective of one who has seen the EU from the inside, taken a cold hard view and found it to be an abject disaster which is doing untold damage to British interests.
What he also makes clear is that everyone in government and the Civil Service from the Prime Minister downwards is fully aware of the problem, usually as a result of first-hand experience.
In other words, what Hilton is doing is calling out the Prime Minister and the rest of the Remain camp for the bunch of despicable, self-serving liars they are. They know the EU is bad for Britain. They know it is inefficient, democratically unaccountable, corrupt, bureaucratic, anti-market, arrogant, obdurate and hubristic – yet still they persist in claiming that Britain is better off remaining part of it.
Cameron is very much a man to bear grudges and Hilton now runs the severe risk of being left permanently off his old mate’s Christmas card list.
Then again, it’s only Fabians and other disgusting types like the Cambridge spies who agree with EM Forster’s despicable dictum “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”.
In coming out for Brexit, Steve Hilton has done his country a signal service. Not least by exposing the Remain camp for the mendacious, treacherous charlatans they are.