A Strategy for Victory

By MARCUS STEAD

NORMAN Tebbit is arguably Britain’s greatest political strategist, and his game plan for winning the 1987 general election should still be used as a blueprint for any political party or cause serious about victory.

I share the view he expressed in the Telegraph recently that we should put no more reliance on the opinion pollsters forecasts than the forecasts of The Treasury. His guess (and again, I agree) is that subject only to some game changing event, the outcome of the referendum will be too close to call up to the final week of the campaign.

With less than three weeks to go before polling day, the official Leave campaign, and indeed the unofficial bodies working for the same aims, ought to take a moment to think seriously about the strategies they are applying.

My ‘gut instinct’ is that we are winning the argument with the general public, though there is certainly no room for complacency and there is much arguing and debating to be done before polling day.

It’s time to move the debate beyond economic arguments. This isn’t two sides haggling over the price of a car. There are fundamental principles at stake and we on the Leave side need to raise our game and play to our strengths.

Let us remember who our opponents are: The bankers, the BBC, the President of the United States, the European Commission, big business, especially the foreign multi nationals, most of the Labour Party (though NOT rank-and-file Labour supporters, who are often more euroscpetic than their leaders), the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and all those who wanted us to submit to monetary union and the euro (Heseltine, Mandelson et al).

The Leave campaign has thus far allowed our opponents to dictate the terms of the debate. This is a major mistake.

We should not allow ourselves to get too bogged down by statistics and numbers. As Mark Twain (NOT Disraeli) said: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”. This has never been more true. Every figure each side comes up with can be interpreted as incorrect by the other. Most of these statistics can be shown to be unreliable by identifying what criteria has and has not been used to reach them.

What we can say with absolute certainty is that in simple accounting terms, we will be better off because we pay into the EU far more than we get back. We could afford to finance everything at present funded from the EU and have a considerable sum of money left over.

We can also say that the argument about trade is a red herring. The Remain side is scaremongering by saying that British business would be badly affected by tariffs if we left the EU. The reality is totally different for three reasons:

  1. It is absurd to pretend that the EU would not want to trade with the UK if we left the union. They sell £60 billion more to us than we sell to them every year.
  2. It would be enormously damaging to the EU to not trade with us on mutually favourable terms. For example, Airbus planes made in Toulouse, France would not go very far without British made engines (Rolls Royce), wings and landing gear.
  3. Even if the Remain side’s doomsday scenario came about and no trade agreement with the EU could be reached (highly unlikely), modern global trade tariffs average under 3% in any case. Even if that was passed on directly to the consumer (another big ‘if’), most people planning to vote Leave would consider an extra 3% on the weekly shop to be a price worth paying for true national independence. (In reality, George Osborne’s ‘Living Wage’ is a bigger threat to the prices we pay in the shops, though again, this should not be considered a major threat).

We need to move beyond pure economics and focus on five core arguments:

  1. The Principle of Parliamentary Democracy

For as long as the UK is in the EU, whatever you want, you cannot have. The Westminster government works within the parameters of EU laws, rules and regulations. For example, there is a good argument for nationalising the steelworks at Port Talbot at the moment, but EU directives mean that is impossible. EU laws and regulations, devised by the unelected Commission, take precedence over those made by the people we elect at Westminster.

The late Tony Benn devised five tests you should apply to anyone who has power over you:

1. What power do you have?
2. How did you get that power?
3. In whose interests do you use that power?
4. To whom are you accountable?
5. How can I get rid of you?

Let’s now apply those tests to the European Commission:

1. What power do you have?

To propose legislation and enforce EU law, implement EU policies and budgets.

2. How did you get that power?

They were APPOINTED by the Council of Ministers.

3. In whose interests do you use that power?
NOT in the interests of the people of the EU.

4. To whom are you accountable?

Nobody, really. The European Parliament has few meaningful methods of holding it to account.

5. How can I get rid of you?

I can’t!

We need to hammer the message home that if you want to have the ability to remove those who make laws and regulations that affect your life, you must vote Leave on June 23.

  1. The Supremacy of British Courts

The European Court of Justice has the power to overrule the Supreme Court (a misleading title, as it is not the highest court in the land). The European Court of Justice also has the power to render legislation passed by the Westminster Parliament as invalid.

It is true that the European Convention on Human Rights is not an EU incentive, but implementing the Convention is a requirement of EU membership, and it was implemented by the UK in the Human Rights Act that came into effect in October 2000.

This has badly damaged the British legal system, as it has led to spurious claims on the grounds of ‘human rights’, such as an on-going case which will force the UK to give prisoners the right to vote.

If you want the highest court in the land to be a UK court, which implements laws passed by a UK Parliament, you need to vote LEAVE on June 23.

 

  1. Immigration

This is one area where the Remain campaign has really struggled to make an impact. That is because it is undeniably true that for as long as the UK is in the European Union, any EU citizen can move here for any reason. Even if they have no job, no skills, no family connections, or have a string of serious criminal convictions, we can do absolutely nothing to prevent them from moving to the UK.

Net immigration in 2015 was 333,000. We will need to build a city the size of Cardiff every year to house the growing population, or a city the size of Birmingham every five years. This is obviously unsustainable.

This mass, uncontrolled immigration puts ever-increasing pressure on housing, on school places, on NHS resources, and on transport infrastructure.

The Remain side like to twist the argument by saying that ‘immigrant workers’ keep the NHS functioning. This may be true, but that is surely an argument for a sensible, points-based immigration system by which we allow in those with the skills we need, rather than a free-for-all. On that basis, are we not discriminating against potential skilled immigrants from outside the EU, by giving EU skilled immigrants an unfair advantage?

The UK has around 1.6 million unemployed people. These are the people who should be doing the unskilled jobs, NOT EU immigrants.

Oversupply of Labour caused by uncontrolled immigration from the EU results in the suppression of wages. If there is an oversupply of anything, it makes sense to remove some of that supply, which in this case means unskilled labour from the EU.

Of course, we should not blame the immigrants themselves for this problem. It is perfectly sensible for them to take advantage of opportunities to move to a country where the minimum wage is several times higher than at home, and they are, for the most part, decent, hard-working people. The overwhelming majority of them are not abusing the UK’s generous welfare system.

But when young, unemployed British people are struggling to find work, or those in unskilled work have not had a decent pay rise in many years, we have to deal with the problem at its root cause, and this means voting Leave on June 23.

  1. The Ability To Negotiate Our Own Trade Deals

This is an area where the Britain Stronger in Europe is really misleading people. In November 2015, they stated: “Half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe.”

Notice how they refer to ‘Europe’ and NOT ‘the European Union’. This referendum is about the UK’s membership of the EU, not the geographic reality of Europe. So why is the appropriately-named BSE campaign misleading people?

If we look at the continent of Europe as a whole, around 55% of what the UK earned from exports of goods came from European countries in 2014. BUT if we include only EU countries, that falls to just 44%.

The last time the proportion of exported goods and services heading to the EU crossed the 50% line was back in 2008.

The EU is the world’s only shrinking market. It has a shrinking, ageing population and is riddled with debt, while the single currency limps from crisis to crisis (Greece is much closer to yet another bailout than the mainstream media is telling us).

To compete in the modern world, the UK will need to trade with China, India, South America, and, yes, Iran (a country of young, well-educated, outward-looking people eager to engage with the world). In other words, growing economies in places people actually live.

President Obama absurdly threatened the British people during his recent visit to the country, saying that the UK would have to go to ‘the back of the queue’ on a new trade deal if we left the EU. He seems to be forgetting two facts:

  1. He will cease to be President in January 2017, so that will not be his decision to make. The likely Republican candidate for the Presidency, Donald Trump, has been much more welcoming to the prospect of the UK leaving the EU.
  2. The balance of trade between the UK and the USA is roughly £56 billion each way. President Obama would therefore be harming his own country as much as ours by not agreeing a trade deal in a timely manner.

For as long as we are in the EU, the UK cannot sign its own trade deals, and will be hampered by EU competition rules.

Only by voting LEAVE on June 23 will we be able to trade on our own terms with leading markets.

  1. Control Over the United Kingdom’s Foreign Policy

In his meaningless ‘renegotiations’ earlier this year, David Cameron claimed he had got a pledge to excuse the UK from the principle of ‘ever closer union’ and this will apparently be enshrined in future EU treaties.

As I said on this website recently, there are two problems with this: 1. It could all fall apart as soon as it faces a ratification process, as soon as later this year and 2. One of the purposes of the Lisbon Treaty was that there should be no more treaties. In other words, in future, EU laws, rules and reforms will take place in a piecemeal way rather than as part of a major treaty. Whether this actually happens or not remains to be seen, but it’s entirely possible there will never be a future treaty in any case.

For a more realistic assessment of the direction of travel, we should look to what those who actually have power in the EU are saying. The Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has called for the creation of an EU army, and this claim has been backed up by our own former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Do we really want British foreign policy to be determined by unelected bureaucrats? Do we really want British servicemen and women sent in to battle by an overseas government we cannot hold to account, and cannot remove in elections?

A secret paper entitled Global Security on Foreign and Security Policy has been made available to a select group of “trusties”, all sworn to secrecy. Its chief architect is EU Commissioner and foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Publication has been held back until June 24 for fear that  British voters might see that voting to Remain in the European Union is a far bigger “leap into the dark” than voting to be free.

This is very dangerous, but to be absolutely sure it does not happen, we need to vote LEAVE on June 23.

Please Understand: President Obama is NOT a ‘Friend’ to Britain. He is defending the USA’s National Interests

Obama Cameron

By MARCUS STEAD

Here’s an exclusive you won’t read anywhere else, confirmed to me buy a source close to Downing Street: Next Monday, David Cameron will fly to New York, where he will deliver a major speech on the future direction of British foreign policy to invited guests, including presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The overriding theme of the speech will be that from now on, British foreign policy will be both consistent and ethical. He will warn that if the United States wants to continue to have a close, ‘special relationship’ with the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court must allow itself to be overruled by international courts, Congress must no longer be the ultimate decider of federal law and the USA will have to adopt an ‘open doors’ policy of unlimited immigration from Mexico and Canada. 250 years of ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ in the USA will have to come to an end.

On top of this, Mr Cameron will insist that the USA abolishes the death penalty and that Guantanamo Bay is closed within a very short period of time.

Furthermore, Mr Cameron will warn the presidential candidates, and the American people, that failure to implement his demands will result in severe trade tariffs on goods exported to the UK.

OK, so I made it up – no such visit is taking place and no such speech will be made. The whole premise is absurd and I doubt many of you were taken in by it. Any British Prime Minister who had the arrogance and the audacity to make such a speech would rightly be laughed out of the USA.

But why is it so different to the threatening, menacing speeches President Obama made during his visit to Britain last week?

We’ve now reached the stage where the entire Remain argument is based on fear, threats, hyperbole and hypothetical situations. President Obama’s speeches last week merely served to pour fuel on the flames.

Bringing Barack Obama to this country to make the case for Britain remaining in the European Union was David Cameron’s nuclear option – it was his last major role of the dice, and an act of desperation.

Most British people are little more than casual observers of American politics. To many, especially among the younger generation, President Obama is seen as a bit of a ‘cool dude’, a sort of Will Smith Hollywood ‘star’ type of leader – young (though he’s aged rapidly as President), in good shape, eloquent, humorous, personable, and able to sing and dance. He is regarded by many, especially the young, as the antithesis of his predecessor, George W Bush.

Yet it’s a very different story in the United States itself. Obama was elected president in late 2008 on a wave of optimism and hope. ‘Change is Coming’ and ‘Yes We Can’ were his slogans. This was a man who was going to draw a line under a dark, nervous period in the country’s history, dominated by terror attacks, international conflict and economic turmoil.

The reality turned out to be very different. Under President Obama, the USA’s national debt has nearly doubled from $10.6 trillion when he became President to around $19 trillion today, and is likely to increase to $20 trillion by the time he leaves office next January. Yes, that’s right – Obama has overseen the doubling of the national debt.

On foreign policy, his ‘lead from behind’ strategy has been nothing short of a disaster. On his watch, American troops have pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and very soon afterwards, both nations descended into chaos.

Obama gave verbal encouragement to those involved in the Arab Spring, which saw stable, albeit undemocratic and authoritarian governments overthrown by mainly hard-line Muslim groups in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.

The romantic reporting by the largely pro-Obama BBC News and other liberal outlets quickly began to look absurd as the Arab Spring gave way to the Islamic Winter. The Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which replaced the secular, broadly pro-American regime led by Hosni Mubarak, was short-lived, and was duly overthrown by the country’s military.

Libya, which had enjoyed decades of stable, consistent economic prosperity and relative social harmony under the secular rule of Colonel Gaddafi, albeit one characterised as an authoritarian dictatorship, descended into disorder, violent conflict, chaos and poverty from which it has not recovered six years later. The Gaddafi era was a time of paradise in comparison to what the country has become.

By the way, the links between Gaddafi and the Lockerbie Disaster are wholly unconvincing when looked at objectively. So why did Britain and the USA turn against Gaddafi after a considerable period of friendly relations?

According to more than a few observers, Gaddafi’s plan to quit selling Libyan oil in US dollars, demanding payment instead in gold-backed “dinars” (a single African currency made from gold), was the real cause.

Gaddafi’s regime, sitting on massive amounts of gold, estimated at close to 150 tons, was also pushing other African and Middle Eastern governments to follow suit. In other words, Gaddafi was, by default, on the verge of launching a major African currency that would have rivalled both the US dollar and the euro, and been a major threat to the debt-laden Western governments.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly went so far as to call Libya a “threat” to the financial security of the world.

This seems to be the most likely reason why Obama and his buddy David Cameron were so willing to turn against an ally and see a prosperous, secular state descend into a lengthy, brutal conflict, with no end in sight, even after six years.

In Yemen, the Arab Spring was reversed when the government was overthrown by Houthi rebels in January 2015, and the country remains in a state of civil war.

The only country that can in any way proclaim the Obama-backed Arab Spring as a success is Tunisia, which remains a functioning, albeit fragile democracy.

At the same time, ISIS has taken hold in parts of Iraq and Syria on Obama’s watch, while his response has been muddled and inconsistent.

Domestically, Barack Obama fares little better. Aside from his poor track record on debt and the economy, the rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders was largely down to millions of ordinary Americans becoming disillusioned with an arrogant, complacent Washington elite, of which Obama is a part, who are not on the side of regular folk who want to get on in life.

Obama’s popularity inside America has long since ebbed away, and following his actions last week, his undeserved popularity among British people took a massive hit from which it will not recover.

When Obama gave his Downing St press conference alongside David Cameron, ‘Project Fear’ turned into ‘Project Threat’. His line about Britain having to join the ‘back of the queue’ (as opposed to the American expression ‘back of the line’) was a very thinly veiled threat.

The British people do not take kindly to being threatened. It may also have escaped Mr Obama’s attention that his term of office comes to an end next January, and it is not for him to say where on the priority list his successor will place a trade agreement with an independent Britain.

For all his overblown rhetoric and bravado, Donald Trump does at least respect the right of the British people to determine their own future, as he made clear during his interview with Piers Morgan. The British people would do well not to underestimate him.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that trade between the UK and the USA is more-or-less balanced at around $57 billion each way. There is currently no trade deal in place, yet the USA is the biggest investor in the UK at $324 billion, while UK investment in the US last year was $282 billion. More than a million Americans work for British companies and more than a million Britons are employed by American companies.

Does anybody seriously believe either Trump or Hillary Clinton or any other late contender for the presidency would want to jeopardise this finely-balanced, mutually-beneficial trading relationship because the British people wish to become a self-determining, independent nation? Of course not!

However, it would do us some good to reassess the so-called ‘Special Relationship’ in light of President Obama’s comments.

We more-or-less share a language with the USA and many Brits, especially the young, consume quite a lot of American culture. Yet there are many differences, not least in humour (Americans are often baffled by our dry, subtle humour), as well as in their shiny, eternal optimism, which contrasts sharply with British subtlety and cynicism.

I like America and I like Americans, but we should always remember that it is a foreign country with different interests to ours.

When Britain ran out of money during World War I, the USA forced us to limit our Navy, and it began to overtake us as the world’s leading naval power.

In 1934, Britain had defaulted on the enormous debt from WWI, worth up to £225 billion in today’s money, which we still haven’t paid off, and probably never will.

In the darkest hours of the Second World War, just after the fall of France, the US Congress demanded almost every penny Britain owed before it would authorise the Land-Lease programme. Convoys of Royal Navy warships carried British reserves of gold bullion (worth around £25 billion in today’s money) across the Atlantic, never to return. Billions of pounds worth of notable securities went the same way, and British assets in the USA were sold off at laughably low prices.

What Britain got in return was enough support to stay in the fight against Hitler, but our economy was to be permanently weakened and the USA was to be ‘top dog’ in the world. When peace arrived in 1945, it was made on American, not British terms, and Marshall Aid came with strings to open up the British Empire to outside trade, which in turn led to its dismantling.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that secret documents came to light (probably by accident) that exposed detailed CIA involvement in the creation of a permanently united Europe in the period following the end of WWII, presumably because America was weary of involving itself in any future such wars. A unified Europe, with Britain as part of it, has remained American foreign policy ever since.

The USA’s involvement in WWII was because of its own national interests, not ours.

In 1982, the USA very nearly ruined Britain’s attempts to recapture the Falklands from the Argentinian junta. We should ask ourselves whether now, more than three decades on and with a much smaller armed forces, whether the Pentagon would side with Britain if Argentina once again seized Port Stanley?

In 1998, President Clinton forced Britain to negotiate and eventually give in to many of the demands of Sinn Fein/IRA, just around the time when the Royal Ulster Constabulary had them on the run. This process was continued by his successor, President Bush. Both Democrat and Republican parties are aware of how useful it is to play up Irish ancestry in America, and of how much fundraising money it can generate.

POLITICS G20 202428
President Obama bows to the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

This is proof that UK and US national interests are not permanently entwined. The USA has one ‘special relationship’, and that is with Saudi Arabia. It is a 70-year-old pact based on oil, money and power.

Saudi Arabia has an uncomfortable amount in common with ISIS, ranging from everything from its treatment of women, to beheadings, to amputating the limbs of criminals, to blowing up ancient monuments, yet the US administrations, both Democrat and Republican barely utter a word in disapproval, and side with the country in its regional conflicts, even if it results in an illogical, inconsistent hostility towards countries like Iran.

The UK and the USA are two countries with very different national interests. The US is not a ‘friend’ who looks upon Britain in any special way. American presidents say the things they do about Britain’s relationship with the EU because it is in their national interest, not ours.

We do well to remember that.

So You Think Brexit is a ‘Right Wing’ Cause? Think Again!

By MARCUS STEAD

There is a lazy, conventional wisdom among sections of the mainstream media that parodies anyone opposed to Britain’s membership of the EU as ‘right wing’. This is totally inaccurate, both historically and in the context of the upcoming referendum.

Hugh_Gaitskell
Hugh Gaitskell

As long ago as 1962, the then-Labour leader, Hugh Gaitskell delivered the greatest speech ever made by a British party leader against EEC membership to his party’s conference. Among many astute comments, he said: “We must be clear about this; it does mean, if this is the idea, the end of Britain as an independent European state. I make no apology for repeating it. It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say: “Let it end.” But, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought.”

Gaitskell died just three months later, but had he lived, it seems very likely he would have continued to voice his opposition to Britain joining the EEC.

The terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ are only of any use if we stick purely to economics. A ‘left winger’ is one who believes in a collectivist approach with a greater level of involvement by the state, whereas a ‘right winger’ is one who is more individualist, with a smaller role for the state. Beyond economics, into the areas of social and moral issues, the expressions ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ are little more than terms of abuse.

For example, George Galloway is widely assumed to be ‘left wing’ because of his collectivist, possibly Marxist, approach to economics. But he is also strongly opposed to drug use and, though he accepts an alcohol-free society is not going to happen, he believes alcohol has a deleterious effect on people and that sales of alcohol should be severely restricted. He also has a religious approach to life and his belief in God is absolute. Therefore, in many ways, he could be described as socially conservative, but he would surely take exception to the label ‘right wing’ being attached to his name.

‘Right wing’ is as a term of abuse that quite a number of those who support Britain’s continued membership of the EU use to caricature their opponents. This assumption does not stand up to scrutiny.

Nobody under the age of 58 today will have been old enough to vote in the 1975 referendum on Britain’s membership of what was then the European Economic Community (or the ‘Common Market’ as it was more commonly known), but in those days, the Conservatives were the most pro-EEC party while almost all of the prominent anti-EEC campaigners were in Labour.

The question in 1975 was: “”Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?”, which required voters to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, as opposed to the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ question we will answer in 2016.

Margaret Thatcher 1975
Margaret Thatcher campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the 1975 referendum

The ‘Yes’ campaign was supported by the leaders of both the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and Margaret Thatcher, who had recently become leader of the Conservatives, along with those who would be described as ‘moderates’ and in the political ‘centre ground’.

Most of the prominent ‘No’ campaigners were on the ‘left’ of the Labour Party and on the ‘right’ of the Conservative Party.

The ‘Yes’ campaign had the support of every national newspaper, with the exception of the little-red socialist Morning Star, as well as the bulk of the business community.

The ‘No’ campaign was run on a shoestring by comparison. Indeed, the donations Sainsbury’s and BP made to the ‘Yes’ campaign were almost three times the entire budget of the ‘No’ campaign.

Two of the ‘No’ campaign’s leading figures were Tony Benn and Michael Foot, both of whom were identified with the ‘hard left’ of the Labour Party. On the ‘hard right’, or, if we want to use a really abusive and meaningless label, the ‘far right’, was  Enoch Powell, who prior to the previous year’s elections had quit the Conservative Party after rightly pointing out that their previous leader, Edward Heath, had taken the United Kingdom into the EEC without a mandate to do so.

Benn and Powell, both articulate, charismatic public speakers, expressed fears about the loss of national Parliamentary sovereignty and lack of democratic accountability in the EEC, though both men faced parody and ridicule, with Benn being depicted as a ‘Marxist’ and Powell as a ‘racist’. Add the controversial Ulsterman Dr Ian Paisley into the mix, and it was easy to caricature the ‘No’ camp as lacking moderate voices.

The businessman and economist John Mills (best known for his JML range of gadgets and appliances) was a prominent ‘No’ campaigner in 1975 and is heavily involved with the ‘Leave’ campaign in 2016, but his presence and profile back then wasn’t enough of a counterbalance.

The ‘Yes’ camp had Wilson, Thatcher as well as other political big hitters of the day, including Denis Healey and Roy Jenkins on side, but it is not entirely true to say the ‘No’ camp were all on the fringes of their parties. Barbara Castle could be associated with the ‘hard left’ at a push, but Peter Shore, one of the most vociferous anti-EEC campaigners both before and after the referendum, was associated with the ‘soft left’, though was not always treated as such by the media during the campaign.

Despite being a diverse tent, the ‘No’ camp lacked a prominent, popular and trusted figure who could take on the ‘Yes’ campaign with its resources and big names.

As the late Alistair McAlpine, treasurer of the ‘Yes’ campaign in 1975 put it in a 2005 interview: “The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-Marketers as unreliable people – dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path. It wasn’t so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody who proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.”

Years later, McAlpine would change his mind, and became a major backer of Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party. But in 1975, the ‘establishment’ view, the ‘Project Fear’ of its day, was that staying in was the safe option, supported by ‘safe’ people including most of the political establishment and every major national newspaper, in an era where newspapers were far more widely-read and carried much more clout than they do today.

So why did Margaret Thatcher, who became much more Eurosceptic in later life, support a ‘Yes’ vote in 1975? At the time, the EEC project was regarded as broadly capitalist, and would provide economic opportunities in an era when the British Empire had come to an end. The trade union movement was mostly suspicious of it at the time, portraying it as a ‘capitalist club’ that would prevent a future Labour government from carrying out a socialist programme of policies.

Yet from Gaitskell to Benn, those on the ‘left’ had a proud track record of combining any concerns about the ‘capitalist club’ with convictions about national sovereignty and democratic accountability.

Back in 1975, opposition to EEC membership from those described as ‘right wing’ broadly took the view that the loss of national and Parliamentary sovereignty was of far more importance than the alleged economic benefits of staying in.

Inevitably, the heavy propaganda and scaremongering worked and the ‘Yes’ side won the 1975 referendum with 67% of the vote. But in the years that followed, it was the Labour Party who were the most Eurosceptic. By 1983, the party had shifted firmly to the ‘left’ under the leadership of Foot, and in that year’s general election manifesto included a firm commitment to withdraw Britain from the EEC without a referendum.

Following Labour’s crushing defeat in 1983, calls for withdrawal became fainter and the party’s position on the issue of EEC membership became less clear during the early years of Neil Kinnock’s leadership, with the matter only meriting three vague sentences in the often-muddled manifesto of 1987. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher signed the Single European Act in 1987, which paved the way for the EEC to evolve into the European Union in the years that followed.

Therefore, right up until the late 1980s, the bulk of euroscepticism came from the Labour Party and the Tory back benches, with the Thatcher government being firmly in favour of continued membership.

Jacques Delors 1988
Jacques Delors in 1988

The turning point came in September 1988 when the then-President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, gave a speech to the Trade Unions Congress in Bournemouth where he promised that the Commission would be a force to require governments to introduce pro-labour legislation.

A little under two weeks later, Mrs Thatcher retaliated in her famous Bruges speech, in which she said that she had not rolled back the frontiers of the state only for them to be re-imposed by a Brussels superstate.

This speech changed the terms of the EEC debate in Britain completely. The Labour Party now saw the project as socialist and as a way of reversing Thatcherism. In 1989, Labour underwent a policy review which resulted in a strong commitment towards the EEC.

From then on, the Conservative Party was deeply divided. For the final two years of her time as Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher became increasingly sceptical, believing that the EEC was trying to introduce socialism through the back door, while the splits on the issue within Cabinet were to prove poisonous and deeply damaging not only to her authority, but also to that of her successor, John Major into the 1990s, as well as to every Conservative leader in the years since, a fact David Cameron is regularly being reminded of.

The Labour front bench has remained largely pro-EU in the years since 1989, and although there have been splits on the specifics such as membership of the euro, support for the EU project has remained strong.

That is not to say that there haven’t been a significant number of voices on the Labour back benches who remained strongly opposed to EU membership. Tony Benn, who remained a Labour MP until 2001, maintained the view that the principles of Parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability were of more importance than working people being ‘given’ rights by a foreign, unelected power, while also maintaining that the EU would prevent a Labour government from implementing what he considered to be important socialist policies, such as nationalising large sections of industry. Others on the ‘hard left’ including militant trade unionist Arthur Scargill, leader of his own Socialist Labour Party share this view.

Tony Benn 2005
Tony Benn continued to be a committed Eurosceptic

In 2005, Tony Benn reflected: “You have to make your case – and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But in the sense that Margaret Thatcher has now come round to my view, Rupert Murdoch has now come round to my view, it wasn’t unsuccessful, was it?”

Anti-EU voices on the Labour back benches have by no means been confined to the ‘hard left’ with Kate Hoey and Frank Field, associated with the ‘right’ of the party, campaigning loudly for a ‘Leave’ vote in 2015, in line with long-held principles of theirs.

At ‘grassroots’ level, the split in the Labour Party is far deeper. Many Labour supporters who would be defined as urban, inner-city working class support Brexit on grounds of being sympathetic to some or all of Tony Benn’s arguments, combined with concerns about the impact mass immigration is having upon them in terms of the suppression of wages, housing and community cohesion. Labour supporters who wish to remain are typically middle class intellectuals who work in the public sector.

So what of the modern Conservative Party? The ‘grassroots’ are overwhelmingly Eurosceptic. Many of those who supported membership in 1975 on economic grounds will be supporting Brexit in 2016 due to issues of loss of sovereignty, overregulation and lack of border controls.

The Parliamentary party is as divided now as it was the day Margaret Thatcher left Downing St for the last time. The cracks have been papered over for periods, but they’ve never really gone away. So far, 23 Cabinet Ministers say they’ll campaign for Remain, and seven for leave. The Tory back benches appear to be split roughly fifty-fifty.

The only historical consistency since the 1970s is that the front bench of the governing party of the day has been supportive of continuing membership. Beyond that, both main parties and their supporters across Britain have always been divided.

Brexit is a cause supported by people from all walks of life, and from many different parts of the political spectrum.

The Referendum David Cameron Didn’t Want

By MARCUS STEAD

Make no mistake. This referendum was never in David Cameron’s plan. It’s only taking place at all because he’s run out of ways of escaping from it.

Here’s what actually happened: David Cameron didn’t think the Conservatives could win an outright majority at last year’s general election. He thought his best hope was a repeat of 2010, namely a coalition deal with another party, probably the Liberal Democrats.

Therefore, he put policies into the Conservative Party manifesto that could be negotiated away in coalition talks. The two main policies to be surrendered were the EU referendum and deep cuts to public spending to reduce the deficit.

Mr Cameron’s plan was to sacrifice these two policies in coalition negotiations, then, when asked why he couldn’t give us a referendum on EU membership, he would blame those terrible Lib Dems he was forced to share power with.

But it didn’t work out as he hoped. At last year’s general election, the Lib Dem vote was squeezed. Voters in Lib Dem seats who approved of what the coalition did rewarded the Conservatives. Those who disapproved punished the Lib Dems. As a result, they lost all but eight of the 57 seats they held, including most of their most senior and high-profile figures, including Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Simon Hughes and the late Charles Kennedy.

The phenomenal rise of the SNP, who won the vast majority of seats in Scotland, took away seats Labour and the Lib Dems could once have taken for granted, even on a bad election.

The Conservatives themselves won just 24 seats more than in 2010, partly as a result of the Lib Dems being squeezed, and partly due to intense campaigning in key constituencies, giving them an outright House of Commons majority of 12. This majority is tiny, but it was enough for Mr Cameron not to require a coalition partner.

This can in no way be described as a substantial victory for the Conservatives. Just 11.3 million people voted for them, compared to the 14.1 million who voted for the party under John Major in 1992.

Some of those nearly three million missing Tory voters will have died or emigrated, but the majority will still be around. Where have they gone? Why did Mr Cameron fail to earn their votes? And what about the millions of younger people who have come onto the electoral register in the years since?

This result was hardly a ringing endorsement for Mr Cameron by the British people, but nevertheless, it was enough to return him to Downing St with an outright majority.

And so his problems began. He had run out of excuses not to give the British people a referendum on EU membership. He couldn’t blame those awful Lib Dems for holding him back.

How can we be so sure that David Cameron didn’t want to give us a referendum? In his 11 years as party leader, he made the right noises to appease the rank-and-file eurosceptics in his party when he needed to, but at other times his words, and especially his actions, have been those of an arch europhile.

In April 2006, showing his usual arrogance, he described UKIP supporters as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. This is hardly the language of a Prime Minister in waiting, and is certainly not the way to speak of a party that consists largely of former and potentially future Conservative members and voters.

Then there was Mr Cameron’s betrayal over the proposed EU Constitution in the year before he became Prime Minister. When the constitution failed, a few cosmetic changes were made and it was repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty, but it amounted to more-or-less the same thing, and Mr Cameron wriggled out of his commitment to a referendum on the issue.

Actually, the Lisbon Treaty may have inadvertently done those of us who wish to leave the EU a favour, as, for the first time, the process by which a member state can leave the union is explained.

Then, just two years ago, Mr Cameron tried to block the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Junker as president of the European Commission. Shortly after this failed, Mr Cameron greeted Mr Junker with a ‘high-five’, and the pair appear to have enjoyed warm relations ever since.

But the most striking aspect of Mr Cameron’s europhile instincts came when he was forced to act on his manifesto pledges, first for a ‘renegotiation’ on the terms of the United Kingdom’s membership, which was to be followed by a referendum.

We can allow ourselves a little chuckle that Mr Cameron was forced into this situation because of a general election he never intended to win outright. He does, after all, have far more in common ideologically with his former Liberal Democrat coalition partners than he does with most grass roots Conservatives, but was forced to act on the manifesto pledge he hoped to negotiate away.

The ‘renegotiations’ didn’t amount to much. Mr Cameron’s demands were, to put it politely, mild, and what he actually got was of little consequence.

Yes, he got a pledge that excludes the United Kingdom from the principle of ‘ever closer union’ and this will apparently be enshrined in future EU treaties. There are two problems with this: 1. It could all fall apart as soon as it faces a ratification process, as soon as later this year and 2. One of the purposes of the Lisbon Treaty was that there should be no more treaties. In other words, in future, EU laws, rules and reforms will take place in a piecemeal way rather than as part of a major treaty. Whether this actually happens or not remains to be seen, but it’s entirely possible there will never be a future treaty in any case.

Mr Cameron failed to get the concessions he wanted on EU citizens claiming in-work benefits. All he got was a complicated, vague concept of an ‘emergency brake’ where a member state could apply to the Commission for permission to suspend benefit payments if they were placing too much of a burden on the social services of a member state.

On the Eurozone, Mr Cameron wanted new rules to protect countries outside the zone against regulation made by those inside the group that could disadvantage them. The main purpose of this was to protect the City from an attempt by the Eurozone to challenge its dominance as Europe’s main financial centre.

What Mr Cameron got was a concession that only one country outside the zone would be needed to ‘force a debate among EU leaders’ about problem Eurozone laws. These protections will be written into EU treaties (see above) so Britain could challenge a decision in the European Court if it felt it necessary.

These are weak demands, and weak concessions. Mr Cameron’s ‘renegotiations’ offer absolutely nothing on the things that actually matter: The sovereignty of our nation and the Westminster Parliament, the supremacy of British courts over European ones, border controls, the ability to set our own foreign policy, and our ability to set trade deals with countries outside the EU on our own terms.

These are the things that define the existence of a sovereign nation. The purpose of the EU, since its inception at the Treaty of Rome (the European Coal and Steel Community as it then was), was the principle of ‘ever closer union’ and to create a superstate with one flag, one anthem, one parliament, one court of justice and one currency.

This continues to be the aim of the EU project. Trade and financial co-operation, the thing that gets most talked about in Britain, is just one aspect of it as far as the rest of the EU is concerned. Other EU member states talk much more openly about their aims of on-going political integration and erosion of sovereignty.

We are faced with a clear choice in this referendum: To restore our national independence as a sovereign nation, with a democratically-elected Parliament, and independent judiciary and proper border controls, or, to cease to exist as a nation forever, and become a province of an undemocratic European superstate, with all that it entails.