vlcsnap-2016-04-10-16h58m44s60Last week was not one of the finest David Cameron has enjoyed during his six-year tenure at No.10. After a disastrous budget, the resignation of IDS and a faltering Remain campaign had all served to add to the PM’s woes, then came the files of Mossack Fonseca. Confirmation of something everyone already suspected was exacerbated by his evasive attitude, eventually coming clean and releasing his financial records to the press when he realised his earlier avoidance of the truth made him look as though he had something to hide. As his Cabinet colleagues (or at least those not in the Brexit camp) have been constantly reminding us, Dave didn’t do anything legally wrong by profiting from his father’s offshore banking business; but it doesn’t look good on a moral scale. Then again, who associates morals with Honourable Members?

On the opposing benches, Jeremy Corbyn has stirred from his afternoon nap and has started adding his voice to the chorus of criticism as the Labour Party furtively clutches at any straw that might be to their advantage. I can’t remember a previous Labour leader in opposition so averse to getting his face on camera; if Iain Duncan Smith was the Quiet Man during his brief spell as Tory leader, then Corbyn is the Invisible Man. Does he believe that doing a Howard Hughes somehow gives him alluring mystique or has it yet to dawn on him that being a party leader means giving up the kind of preaching to the converted he indulged in for all the decades he was a professional backbencher? Corbyn might have a long-standing personal interest in the various ‘anti this or that’ factions operating on Labour’s fringes, but giving a speech at a rally before those for whom he can do no wrong as Keeper of the Socialist Flame is not what the rest of the country wants from an opposition to an unpopular government.

The narrowness of the Labour vision under Corbyn, with his brief experiment of a Shadow Cabinet airing opinions contrary to his own having been quickly discarded, appeals solely to nostalgic veterans of the 80s who worship the memory of Tony Benn and gullible novices too young to remember life before Blair. Labour has become the political equivalent of a band who were once chart-toppers and are now a cult act that nobody bar the diehard fans are remotely interested in. The new recruits in particular display the obstinate refusal to accept another point of view to their own that is characteristic of the tribal teenager and are responsible for the endless desperate online petitions demanding the resignation of Cameron every time he puts a foot wrong. Some are also guilty of worrying anti-Semitism of a kind that blames Israel for every ill in the Middle East, despite the fact that none of the mass murderers of Middle Eastern descent that have brought carnage to the streets of Europe in the past year or so practice Judaism.

The SNP in their Third Party shoes seem to imagine that simply pointing to their impressive numbers is enough, as though that is the beginning and end of their contribution to the Commons bar the occasional token grumble. Mind you, they are hampered as a powerful collective voice by the absence of their leader from Parliament, content as she is to play in the Scottish Premier League, wiping the floor with a glut of weaker and smaller teams like a Holyrood equivalent of Celtic. A big fish/small pond scenario suits Nicola Sturgeon because it makes her appear more important than she actually is, but it does somewhat reduce the potential of her party at Westminster.

And then there’s the Liberal Democrats. Oh, dear. What can one say of the depleted Lib Dems and their leader? Tim Farron is almost as invisible as Jeremy Corbyn, though I would imagine this isn’t through choice. I can picture Farron constantly trying to get on television and in the papers, yet being denied access to the enclosed VIP section of the political club by a burly bouncer telling him ‘if your name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in’. It’s hard to envisage what difference a party with a paltry eight MPs can make with the exception of a crucial Commons vote; the real strength in depth for the Lib Dems is in the Lords, where they have shown they can do considerable damage to unpopular government proposals. Not that this has much effect on day-to-day business in the House that really counts, however.

David Cameron announced last year that he had no intentions of running for a third term as Prime Minister; whether or not he foresaw that a humiliating defeat at the EU Referendum could force a premature departure is debatable, but a good deal personally hinges on the outcome of events on June 23. If the Brexit camp claim victory – something the majority of Fleet Street would certainly favour – Cameron’s position could be untenable, more so than it is courtesy of ‘revelations’ of his pre-Downing Street tax evasion or even of his alleged adolescent penchant for inserting his private parts into porcine orifices.

Any cloud-cuckoo Corbyn groupies who think Dave’s downfall will open the door to their Messiah, however, clearly haven’t considered a certain wild-haired Mayor who is no doubt reciting a winning speech in Latin as we speak. One could advise them to be careful what they wish for, though I’m guessing they’d probably respond by calling anyone daring to dispense such advice a homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, corporate Zionist elite-loving Tory scumbag.

© The Editor


UntitledWho’d have thought it? Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, arch-advocate of cutting benefits to the bone for the best part of a decade, has resigned on the pretext that the cuts to disability benefits proposed by the Chancellor in the Budget went too far. Yes, you heard right. I know it sounds about as plausible as Nick Griffin regarding Oswald Mosley as someone who was a bit extreme, but that’s what ‘the quiet man’ said in his resignation letter as he walked out of the Cabinet.

George Osborne had again exhibited his charmless talent for embodying the Nasty Party mantle that continues to plague the Conservatives when unveiling this week’s Budget. This time – surprise, surprise – the recipients of his purse-string-pruning belonged to one of the few sections of society that he and his spivvy cronies can’t make a profit from: the sick and the disabled. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose memories of a ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch spoofing Chancellor Geoffrey Howe were evoked, the one where he announces taxes on wheelchairs, white sticks and guide-dogs, adding ‘I am deliberately targeting those who can’t fight back’. So far, so predictable – but wait! There are actually some Tories sitting in the House who didn’t endorse his proposed disability benefit cuts, some who don’t fit the born-to-rule profile, some who are decent constituency MPs concerned that the wrong people are being punished again, some who are even threatening to stage a backbench rebellion if Gideon attempts to force the measure through Parliament.

The backtracking has already begun, barely 48 hours after Osborne proclaimed the policy with his customary brand of misanthropic smugness; Education Minister Nicky Morgan – wearer of a curious expression that implies she’s being permanently goosed – has hastily stepped in to declare that Osborne’s Personal Independence Payment cuts were ‘just a suggestion’. Of course, Gideon has been here before – just last year, as a matter of fact. Remember his attempts to slash £4 billion from Working Tax Credits? That’s the one that was famously thrown out by the Lords and resulted in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement being dominated by the humiliating abandonment of the idea. And if that concept was regarded as an attack on David Cameron’s favourite standby of ‘hard-working families’, how will this latest example of Osborne’s arrogance and conceit blinding him to his own miscalculations be welcomed?

One would expect the Opposition to oppose Osborne’s idea; it’s their job to do so, after all. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Chancellor and his party of waging war on the disabled, but I doubt anybody would have anticipated less. However, the fury of disability campaigners – 25 charities have wasted little time in composing a joint letter asking the Government to think again – seems to be complemented by an unexpectedly sympathetic response to their concerns from within the Conservative Party itself.

Iain Duncan Smith, in his role as the man with whom the buck stops when it comes to benefit cuts, has responded to Osborne’s plans by suddenly agreeing with anyone in possession of a heart. ‘I have for some time,’ he writes, ‘and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled, and the context in which they’ve been made, are a compromise too far.’ For a man who has already overseen more than £30 billion cuts to the welfare budget to exit government on such a pretext sounds a bit rich, yet Duncan Smith goes on to cite the unfairness of a Budget that benefits higher-earners and penalises those at the bottom. He knows he would have been in the firing line had these cuts been implemented and he also knows his position as a long-term Euro-Sceptic, in direct opposition to Osborne, would have rendered his post even more intolerable at such a politically perilous moment for Britain’s EU membership. Iain Duncan Smith has ironically quit on a day when Cameron and Osborne have quickly distanced themselves from these controversial proposals, but the fact that the quiet man hasn’t gone quietly is further evidence of Tory tensions as the EU Referendum edges closer.

For all IDS’s apparent U-turn on benefit cuts, one cannot but see this resignation in the context of the Brexit issue. It colours everything in Tory circles right now. One could even be cynical – perish the thought! – and suggest the backbenchers who oppose Osborne’s plans might just be doing so because Gideon represents the anti-Brexit faction and they’re making the most of every opportunity to give him a bloody nose.

George Osborne has gleefully promoted himself as the main man in the Remain camp along with scaremongering Dave, yet he increasingly seems to be going further out on a limb in a party that can call on some of its most prominent heavyweights to sell the opposing message. Another Budget cock-up is the last thing Gideon needed; that it has resulted in the voluntary exit of a man he hoped would deflect the vitriol of disability campaigners away from him is an additional blow that doesn’t bode well for his Prime Ministerial ambitions. If that’s the case, I suspect there won’t be a moist eye in the House.

© The Editor


Scream‘The Power of Nightmares’, the groundbreaking 2004 Adam Curtis documentary series in which archive footage was woven together to form a tapestry of terror that illuminated the message of the narrative, dealt with the changes in political sales pitches over the past half-century, from ‘I have a dream’ to ‘I have a nightmare’. As ever, Curtis’s eye-opening dissection of a particular subject lifted the complex veil that those who stand to benefit from it erect to prevent the public from receiving the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the current climate of in/out EU media mania, the truth is as hard to locate as it ever was. Both sides of the argument claim ownership of the truth, but only one can be telling it. At the moment, I feel as though a twelve-week-long edition of ‘Call My Bluff’ is being serialised on our TV screens every evening; and all that’s missing from the picture is Robert Robinson chairing proceedings with linguistic pomposity.

The in crowd have this week played upon the worst fears of the British public, fears that have been generated by the right via its tabloid mouthpieces, those of marauding migrants breaching Britannia’s borders and embarking upon on orgy of raping, pillaging, benefit-scrounging and terrorist bombing. It’s an easy sell to a public who have been taught to fear foreigners, with the honourable exception of those from China or Russia who have been invited to buy-up large chunks of London at their leisure. The wretched ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais has been the focus of the in crowd’s argument, with David Cameron claiming a Brexit will end cooperation between French and British immigration officials, thus unleashing ‘the swarm’ upon the UK. The PM has paid a visit to President Hollande in the hope Francois will support his scaremongering, and the signs are encouraging for Cameron, if the comments of France’s Economy Minister are anything to go by.

This canny strategy presents the out crowd, especially the likes of Nigel Farage, with something of a dilemma. The crux of the UKIP main man’s argument has always been that EU membership enables the kind of free movement within member states that leaves the UK powerless to prevent an influx of immigrants – presumably including those currently resident in the Jungle – from flooding our shores. According to him, that will be a consequence of continued membership, yet according to Cameron that will be a consequence of an EU exit. It can’t be both, can it?

The two camps realise that trying to sell the positives of remaining or departing alone won’t be enough to capture the attention of a largely apathetic public too bogged-down with domestic concerns to devote their attention to Europe; so, just as during the run-up to a General Election, they have decided to exploit and capitalise upon general fears and worries that they know will garner headlines and put the fear of God into the gullible. Perhaps both parties actually are extolling the benefits of following their respective paths, but I haven’t really noticed; these don’t seem to be receiving the same coverage or gracing the front pages with the same amount of regularity as the guaranteed gut-reaction of a horror story prophesising what will happen if we don’t take their advice.

A contrived letter signed by ‘leading businessmen’ in support of a Tory Government that appeared in the Mail during the last General Election campaign was regarded as a success by the Prime Minister, so a similar letter materialised a couple of weeks ago, this time signed by leading military men lending their support to the in crowd and predicting a Brexit policy would spell doom and gloom for homeland security. The impartiality of the military, who are in theory supposed to serve Her Majesty and maintain an identical vow of silence on political matters, came across as a particularly desperate move by Cameron and his cohorts so early in the campaign, one that didn’t do their cause many favours in the end. It gave the impression that the PM is paranoid that too many Tory big guns are facing him on the other side of the divide, and when they can bolster their numbers with populist rebel orators such as Farage and Galloway, the task to persuade the public to remain in the bosom of Brussels suddenly appears a harder one than it did before he announced the date of the referendum.

In 1975, a fascinating game of ideological chess between Labour Cabinet Ministers Tony Benn and Roy Jenkins was televised on ‘Panorama’ prior to the EEC Referendum, with a young David Dimbleby acting as referee. There was no ‘X-Factor’-style set or a studio audience whooping and cheering, simply a face-to-face private debate that was all the more compelling because of its minimalistic approach. It was akin to a political equivalent of Fischer Vs Spassky. Something similar today would be welcome, and might just aid the voters in judging which way to lean in June. However, modern television sensibilities don’t work like that.

Today we were promised a more showbizzy debate staged at Wembley Arena before an audience of 12,000, something that has echoes of ‘Question Time Live from Wembley Stadium’ on Chris Morris’s ‘The Day Today’ back in the 90s. In what sounds like a cross between the Eurovision Song Contest and ‘Family Fortunes’, a trio of hosts will present the event in the middle of two teams. The provisional line-ups for both are as follows: The in crowd will consist of Osborne, Alan Johnson, Tim Farron and Caroline Lucas, whereas further odd bedfellows representing the out crowd will be Bo-Jo, IDS, Farage and Galloway. No doubt it will be an entertaining spectacle, but will it really influence anyone as to which polling booth they’ll stroll into? Most of us shamelessly watched the first televised Election debate last year merely to see how heated and personal the arguments between the contrasting personalities would be; and I suspect the same will be the case this year.

If this projected debate actually takes place two days before the referendum is scheduled, I wonder if any of the information we’ll have been bombarded and browbeaten by at that point will have made up any minds that weren’t already made up before Cameron even fired the starting pistol. If it has, chances are what made up those minds will probably owe more to headline-grabbing scaremongering than rational arguments being put forward. Welcome to the Jungle indeed.

© The Editor


75 eThink of this as a trilogy. Providing a running commentary on something in the air means it’s hard to pick up much else on the old antennae this week other than the story that has comprised the last couple of posts, so bear with me one more time. But let’s take a different route with this ‘un and remind ourselves of where we were on the last occasion in which the people had a say in the Great European Experiment that went from economic cooperation to gravy train in the space of a generation. Thinking about it, nationwide exposure to the continent was pretty prevalent in the first half of the 1970s, thanks in the main to improvements in satellite technology and Britain’s membership of the European Broadcasting Union – even if technological improvements hadn’t progressed to preventing British TV commentators on European events still sounding as though they had socks stuffed in their mouths. In a way, however, that distinctive sonic effect was all part of the exotic alternative that Europe represented then.

75 iStuart Hall wetting himself at the sight of oversized figures banging into each other on ‘Jeux Sans Frontieres’; Terry Wogan’s wry commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest; European football featuring English clubs up against bent and bribed match officials (Salonica 1973 and Paris 1975 are dates to avoid if confronting a long-term Leeds United supporter); and, of course, BBC1’s school holiday dubbed mainstays of ‘The White Horses’, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, ‘The Flashing Blade’, and ‘Belle and Sebastiane’. The 1972 Olympics and the 1974 World Cup Final were both held in Munich – with European athletes and footballers claiming the cream of the headlines and the accumulated memories, whether Olga Korbut, Franz Beckenbauer or Johan Cruyff. Even the charts were infiltrated by a distinct Euro take on the British and American pop template – everyone from Focus and Golden Earring to Abba and Kraftwerk.

75 bIt seems only fitting that the UK was welcomed into the European economic club on New Year’s Day 1973; after the US-dominated pop culture of the 50s and the switch to Swinging England in the 60s, eyes turned to Europe in the 70s. Even before David Bowie relocated to West Berlin with Iggy Pop, the continent separated from British shores by the slim body of water that is the Channel was very much on the tip of Albion’s tongue. It’s always worth remembering that the initial admirable motivation of greater European integration emanated from the generation that had fought the Second World War (and, in some cases, the one that had also fought the First). If economics could prevent Europe from degenerating into a third conflict in the space of fifty years, so be it; yes, there was the not-insignificant factor of a certain wall dividing east and west, but perhaps the symbolic impact of that construction served to persuade the Western European powers a union was in everyone’s interests. After all, there was already a military link between them in the shape of NATO, so why not take the pact one step further?

75 fThe protracted withdrawal from Empire was something many European nations experienced in the 50s and 60s, and though France had a particular problem with Algeria, even they didn’t have the sheer number of humbling adjustments Britain had to make as one-by-one, the Union Flag was lowered throughout Africa, the Far East, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. We needed time to come to terms with our diminishing role on the world stage, and de Gaulle was especially attuned to our half-hearted commitment to Europe, vetoing our efforts to join the fledgling European Economic Community in the early 60s. Future PM Edward Heath’s place at the negotiating table during Macmillan’s tenure at No.10 remained paramount in his thoughts, so much so that when he eventually ascended to the pinnacle of power, Heath was determined to sign on the dotted line. That he did so without offering Parliament a debate on the issues involved, however, served to sow the seeds of mistrust and suspicion over precisely what he had achieved.

75 jThe Labour Party was particularly aggrieved that it hadn’t been able to pre-empt Heath’s success during the 1964-70 Government, and opposition between 1970 and 1974 presented Harold Wilson with a problem in that he instinctively had to challenge the Tories even if he secretly applauded what his nemesis had achieved. The solution to this dilemma came with the two General Elections of 1974, when Labour first promised a renegotiation of the 1972 terms of entry and then an unprecedented in/out referendum. To Wilson’s credit (albeit under pressure from his Industry Secretary, Tony Benn), the October 1974 Election promise was delivered and the first-ever national plebiscite was scheduled for the following June.

75 cBy this time, Heath had been toppled from his position as Tory leader by Margaret Thatcher, though the pair managed a rare moment of harmony when sharing a platform in the early days of the campaign as both advocated the ‘yes’ vote. At the time, the Conservative Party was largely united on its commitment to Europe, whereas it was Labour that possessed the most visible divisions. Although Wilson himself kept a discreet distance from the frontline, his highest-ranking Ministers, Jim Callaghan and Roy Jenkins, were prominent in persuading the people it was in their best interests to remain part of Europe. The latter even went so far as to stand alongside Heath and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, an experience he found liberating from Labour in-fighting and perhaps played a part in his eventual decision to breakaway and form the SDP a little over five years later.

75 aIn contrast to today, Fleet Street was more or less unanimous in its support of the ‘yes’ campaign and in an era when the dailies held a greater sway over public opinion than they could dream of in 2016, painting the ‘no’ group as a collection of untrustworthy misfits and renegades – everyone from Labour firebrands Foot, Benn and Barbara Castle to Enoch Powell and Ian Paisley – planted immense seeds of doubt in the minds of the electorate. When the vote finally took place, a unique departure from General Election traditions saw England and Scotland represented by their various counties rather than Parliamentary seats. As the overwhelming thumbs-up to continued membership of the Common Market emerged into the spotlight, only Shetland and the Western Isles rejected the proposition.

75 kIn retrospect, the 1975 EEC Referendum was the last hurrah for many of the political titans who had dominated British public life for the previous couple of decades. Politics was an impassioned playground in the 1970s, and the battle over Europe gave MPs confronted by a myriad of present problems the opportunity to point towards a brighter future, offering hope rather than the usual blood, sweat and toil. Heath never enjoyed such a high profile ever again (not in life, anyway), and neither did Powell or Castle; Wilson and Thorpe were both gone within a year (one went voluntarily; the other was forced to jump), and Jenkins’ failure to capture the Labour leadership in 1976 saw him scurry off to Brussels. It was the full stop on a tumultuous and turbulent period in not just the political but the social life of this country. What the fate will be of numerous public servants in the wake of this year’s referendum remains to be seen; but history does occasionally have a habit of repeating itself.

© The Editor


BorisSo, Bo-Jo has gone and done it. The darling of the anti-Cameron right has once again highlighted his canny opportunism by coming out and declaring his pro-Brexit stance, thus enhancing his credentials as a potential PM in the eyes of the Sun, Mail and Express when Dave calls it a day – something that may come sooner rather than later if the Great British public goes with the ‘no’ vote. Of course, just as there’s more to Cameron’s pro-EU position than simply wanting to remain attached to mainland Europe, there’s a hell of a lot more to Boris’s public declaration than promoting the referendum we now know will take place on June 23.

Curiously, whilst David Cameron seems to embody all the privately-educated elements that irk those not fortunate enough to enjoy his privileges, the Mayor of London’s background is just as privileged, if not more so; his appearance on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ revealed he was descended from George II, no less. But whereas Dave comes across as an insincere, vacuous posh boy whose desperate efforts to mix it with the plebs underline his cluelessness, Boris’s bumbling comedy persona and recourse to archaic ‘crikey’-isms unheard since the heyday of Billy Bunter have endeared him to sections of the public who see in him a rare example of a genuine individual where contemporary politics are concerned. In a way, it’s no real surprise that a populace in love with the cosy Neverland of ‘Downton Abbey’, where toffs are benevolent to the lower orders and forelock-tugging servants know their place, should take Boris to their hearts. And he’s no fool, despite his performance before the cameras; he knows this has been his key selling point from day one, and he’s determined to play the part all the way to No.10.

That Boris will now be sharing a platform with those other two professional political mavericks, Nigel Farage and George Galloway, is only fitting. All three have what the likes of George Osborne and Theresa May – the other two main front-runners with their eyes on Dave’s mantle – will never have. Osborne is detested by all but the most devoted Tory and May has the hectoring vocal whine of Mavis from ‘Coronation Street’; neither could be regarded as an odds-on floating vote-winner. Boris not only has the edge over them, but over the two rebels whose team he has joined. Put simply, the crucial difference between Bo-Jo and Farage and Galloway is that the Mayor can actually discern the reins of real power in his sights, a member of the governing party rather representing a minority fringe that can claim column inches and TV spotlights without turning that into sizeable votes.

Johnson’s election as London Mayor back in 2008 confirmed there was more to this man than the clumsy clown who became a household name after hosting ‘Have I Got News For You’ with such chaotic comedic panache. After initially surrendering his Parliamentary seat to run for the capital’s top job, his first move towards regaining a significant foothold within the Conservative Party came when he returned to Westminster in 2015. Despite sharing former membership of the notorious Bullingdon Club with Cameron and Osborne, Boris had a slightly wider education thereafter, working for both the Times and Telegraph before becoming editor of the Spectator for six years. His political career has contained enough scandals to ruin a lesser man, yet he seems to have emerged from both insulting Liverpudlians and engaging in extra-marital affairs a stronger character, his popularity undimmed by unfavourable headlines, which is no small achievement.

If a little forensic examination is applied to his record as London Mayor, it’s evident Johnson has exerted a paucity of good will towards the masses who voted him into office, preferring to cosy up to big business and enabling architects to take a bloody great scalpel to the London skyline with an absence of appreciation for the damage done to it by endless Towers of Babel. Yet, Johnson was re-elected Mayor in 2012, following his consistently high visibility during that summer’s London Olympics, and has regularly utilised his Wooster-ish charisma to his advantage, exploiting a wide-ranging popularity unparalleled amongst his Cabinet colleagues to ascend the next level of the greasy pole. What other politician could get away with quoting Latin in public and not be viewed as a pretentious prat?

Faced with a choice of, say, Michael Fallon or Boris being the star guest on ‘Newsnight’, how many members of the electorate would actively tune in for the first interview, other than those desperately seeking a cure for insomnia? By consciously developing a character in stark contrast with the never-ending parade of Parliamentary dullards spin-doctored within an inch of their lives for fear of putting a foot wrong and inadvertently revealing a flash of personality, Boris Johnson has successfully capitalised on a dearth of colour in Westminster and as a consequence is one of the most recognisable politicians in the country. He learned early on that by obscuring his ambition in affability and eccentricity, he could win over voters who would never warm to a cold fish like Iain Duncan Smith.

Whether the public’s fondness for Boris could be extended to electing him as their leader remains to be seen; but by allying himself with the prevailing anti-EU sentiments dominating discussions over the impending referendum, Bo-Jo has again demonstrated his talent for being in the right place at the right time. And I suspect he’ll do likewise when Dave eventually falls on his sword.

© The Editor


Cameron as ChurchillAre you bored yet? I was certainly heading that way last week, when I switched on ‘Newsnight’ and was confronted by the EU as the lead story every single evening. The EU, the EU, the bloody EU. Apparently, nothing else was going on in the world – or perhaps it was a means of arresting dwindling viewing figures for the programme by specialising on one subject five nights running as a canny gimmick. After a week in which David Cameron has done his best Jim Hacker, dashing from one European bigwig to another and emerging before the cameras declaring he’s won a groundbreaking deal for Britain that nobody but him seems to understand, the PM has finally announced the long-overdue date of D-Day, the date when the Great British public have their first opportunity to decide on their European fate since 1975.

Funnily enough, I was bored with it then as well. Okay, I was only seven at the time and I had no interest in the EEC Referendum; I wasn’t Jacob Rees-Mogg. There’d already been two General Elections in the previous 16 months, and I probably thought it was another one of those going on. As long as it came free with a day off school again, that was fine by me. Forty-one years later, I’m not at school anymore (be pretty weird if I was), but my interest in the issue is ironically coloured by similar symptoms to those that characterised my reaction in 1975 – a basic absence of understanding as to the facts. We seem to be awash in a sea of misinformation generated by the two opposing viewpoints, so vehemently opposed that they are attempting to outdo each other in bombarding us with scaremongering.

If we leave the EU, our economy will suffer, companies investing in our workforce will withdraw and the unemployment figures will soar; if we remain in the EU, we will be in a stronger position than ever thanks to Dave’s negotiations and will be in charge of our own destiny as well as benefitting from greater cooperation with our European partners.

If we leave the EU, we will be free to trade with America and the Commonwealth, as well as trading with European nations, without any potential profits being limited by ridiculous directives from bloody Brussels; if we remain in the EU, our elected representatives will continue to have their hands tied by rules and regulations none of us signed up to, hampering the chance of further economic recovery and flooding the country with more immigrants.

There’s already a distinct whiff of testosterone wafting from the respective podiums, less than 24 hours after Cameron fired the opening salvo of the four-month marathon. Farage and Galloway are flexing their muscles, fresh from their one-trick pony gyms and sharing some onstage man-love. The UKIP leader has been waiting for this moment all of his political life; it’s his sole raison d’être; it’s the reason he does what he does – whatever it is the leader of a political party without a seat in Parliament actually does do. This is his one opportunity to grab Olympic Gold. As the manager of a League One team playing a Premier League giant in the FA Cup Quarter Finals would say, this is Farage’s cup final. If he blows it, he’s history. Side-by-side with Gorgeous George, Farage is now in tandem with a man he has more in common with than their ideological differences suggest. Both are classic mavericks and appeal to those sick of the slick Westminster Mafia, both are loved and loathed in equal measure; the fact that this issue has united them has echoes of 1975, when the then-‘out’ campaign contained the likes of both Tony Benn and Enoch Powell.

Also reminiscent of 1975 is that Cameron has decided to follow in Harold Wilson’s footsteps by dispensing with collective responsibility within the Cabinet. Everyone is waiting to hear which way Boris will go, whereas Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling were quick to nail their colours to the ‘out’ mast. Less predictably, Michael Gove has thrown his lot in with the rebels as well. Which Brexit group he’ll ally himself with is less simple, as the ‘out’ campaign appears a tad disorganised at the moment, with more than one group jostling for official recognition as the genuine article – a bit like the IRA, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, sort of. The ‘in’ group appear more choreographed, but the prospect of Cameron and Corbyn both advocating essentially the same message is a strange one. Peter Mandelson allying himself with George Osborne makes it easy for critics to label the Dark Lord a closet Tory again, but Jeremy Corbyn?

I think this referendum is going to be a hard sell to the British public, which is probably why the PM has announced the date four months in advance, further in advance than he would with a General Election. He’s got a job on his hands to convince every ‘don’t know’ that this is something that matters to them as much as it matters to him – though his reasons are heavily influenced by the need to ensure his ‘legacy’; after all, he narrowly avoided becoming the Prime Minister who presided over the breakup of the United Kingdom when the Scottish Independence Referendum result came through. He could do with what he regards as another tick against his name. Yes, there are those out there for whom the mere mention of Europe induces the kind of frothing-at-the-mouth, manic mortification most imagine only exists in Daily Mail editorials; but the majority of people in this country have far more pressing concerns, ones that four months of relentless exchanges of fire between the two interested parties across the media won’t make seem any less pressing.

Get ready. We’re in for a long ride. When’s the new series of ‘Poldark’ start, by the way?

© The Editor