Dave is currently on a trick-or-treat junket to Europe, or rather treat-and-trick. He wants the EU to treat him to a few ploys enabling him to trick us into voting Yes in the referendum.
As any marketing man will tell you, respondents in any survey find it much easier to say Yes than No. Hence, by wording the big question as ‘Do you want to stay in the EU?’, rather than ‘Do you want to get out?’, Dave feels he’s already halfway there to the result he craves.
Now he wants the EU to help him with the other half, by agreeing to seemingly attractive but in fact purely cosmetic changes to the existing arrangement, which changes can at any rate be withdrawn after the referendum.
After all, if the plebiscite returns the desired outcome, we aren’t going to be asked to vote again, are we? It’s only when nations vote wrong that the EU tells them to do it again and get it right this time.
The only problem is that the EU is playing hard to get. Dave may have failed to communicate his real objective lucidly enough, or else the federasts are genuinely afraid of the domino effect. What if, following Britain’s example, others start getting ideas above their station? Das ist ausgeschlossen, in the language of the EU metropolis.
One way or the other, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius explained the facts of life to Dave, choosing the language he felt even un sale Anglo-Saxon could understand:
“Mon petit David,” he said. “Britain joined a football club, but no? Zey cannot now say in ze middle of ze match zat zey want to play rugby. It’s one sing or anozzer. What part of non don’t you understand, mon ami?”
Mr Fabius probably didn’t realise how well his metaphor works. For, if what’s going on is a simulacrum of an international football match, then the EU acts in the capacity of FIFA, with all that this entails.
Specifically, it entails corruption on a Putinesque scale, routine bribery, a phoney democracy that is in fact a crypto-dictatorship, contracts going to the boys willing to play ball, blackmailing recalcitrant members – the lot.
My friend Dave winced at both such an unfortunate turn of phrase and an even more unfortunate failure to understand his true goals. He decided to follow suit and resort to the football idiom too.
“Laurent,” he said. “You are being unreasonable. You must realise that unless the ref’s decisions, the least important ones, go our way, we may have to take an early bath.”
That incensed Mr Fabius even more because he was unfamiliar with the expression and decided Dave was rudely referring to the recent survey showing that half the French don’t wash regularly. The conversation rapidly went downhill, and both parties felt the final whistle couldn’t come too soon.
Dave missed an open goal yet again because he failed to realise the goalposts are fixed and can’t be moved. Or else he was caught offside yet again – choose your own football jargon.
What I find intriguing is the way Dave explains the situation to the Europeans. Unless we get what he asks for – and God knows he’s not asking much – Britain may have to leave the EU, he keeps repeating.
And there I was, thinking that the whole point of the referendum is letting the people decide. Since our decision hasn’t yet been made public, how does Dave know whether we’ll vote Yes or No, concessions or no concessions?
He can only feel so prescient if he’s certain he can manipulate the referendum to get the result he wants. He probably can, with a little help from his EU friends, and it’s refreshing to hear a politician in general and Dave in particular tell the truth. If only inadvertently.