God save us from an EU referendum

Before all my friends disown me, my wife hits me on the head with a frying pan and my detractors flash QED smiles, allow me to reassure you.

I’ve in no way changed my views on the EU generally and our membership in it specifically. In fact I go quite a bit further than my Ukip friends in my contempt for this wicked offshoot of the wartime alliance between Nazi Germany and Vichy France.

Just as they do, I dearly hope we can shake the dust of that foul obscenity off our feet. But I also hope all other countries will follow us out of the door, reducing the EU to a ghastly memory that’ll for ever make them cringe recalling it.

Since I’m still opposed to the In-Out referendum so dear to Ukip hearts, it’s obvious I don’t believe this vehicle will carry us to the desired destination.

As a general observation, direct democracy by plebiscite is the worst possible kind of this method of government, which isn’t without fundamental problems even at its best.

This sort of thing only became possible after the Enlightenment perverted the metaphysical premise on which Western civilisation was built. Our formative notion of original sin was replaced with the modern notion of original virtue.

Rather than being compromised by the Fall, man, according to Rousseau and his jolly friends, was both perfect and tautologically perfectible ab initio. Since man demonstrably didn’t end up perfect, it was the fault of society, what with its two-pronged oppressive strategy based on the crown and the church.

The conclusion was obvious: man could return to his original virtue if the oppressors were eliminated and paths leading to liberation were opened.

One of the paths was political: the Enlighteners insisted that perfect and further perfectible citizens could play a hands-on role in government with no outside help necessary. Hence democracy, the rule of the people.

Such Enlightenment thinkers as Smith and Hume realised that people would vote on the basis of their selfish interests, not all of which would be praiseworthy. They just felt that all those private, often clashing, interests could be tossed into a giant cauldron to produce a tasty stew of public virtue.

The two Scots made one fundamental error. They thought that society could for ever continue to draw on the moral capital amassed by Christianity, thereby keeping base passions in check. They couldn’t imagine in their scariest dreams that one day their own atheism would reign supreme.

Once the transcendent restraints on behaviour were removed, no tasty stew would emerge from the cauldron. On the contrary, the resulting concoction would emphasise the rancid taste of each ingredient.

Liberty without “wisdom and virtue”, wrote Burke prophetically, “is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice and madness, without tuition or restraint”. The great Whig had no doubts on the sole possible source of such restraining mechanisms.

That source has run dry in our public life. Consequently collective wisdom and virtue are no longer in evidence, and therefore neither is liberty in whose name modernity conquered.

Democracy no longer reliably produces virtuous results, nor brings to power virtuous people. The nature of modern politics, nay modern societies, is such that people will vote wrong even when they have a valid choice (which they increasingly don’t).

This isn’t to say that people’s instincts are always, indeed usually, wrong. It’s just that, in the absence of Burkean ‘wisdom and virtue’, those instincts can easily be overridden by mass propaganda and general demagoguery.

That’s why democracy, when it goes unchecked by competing methods of government, ends up belying its etymology, withdrawing power from the people and passing it on to professional demagogues who manipulate the electorate using increasingly sophisticated means at their disposal.

Issues put to a vote are thus decided not by their intrinsic merit but by the agitprop weight brought to bear on one end or the other.

It follows that any In-Out referendum will be decided not by a contest between truth and falsehood but by the decibel level of the propaganda pro or con. 

In practical terms this means that Her Majesty’s government, especially if it’s supported by Her Majesty’s opposition, is the odds-on favourite to get the result it wants: its agitprop resources can’t be matched by any rivals.

So let’s assume for the sake of argument, and it’s an unsafe assumption, that the Tories will either form the next government on their own or at least play a decisive role in it.

Since all other parties except Ukip are fanatic European federalists, the Out vote could only result from the Tories aggressively campaigning for it. Supported by our most popular newspapers, they could realistically expect to counteract the vast resources of the EU propaganda machine.

How likely is it that the Tories will commit to such a campaign? Well, about as likely as the MPs on both front benches sporting T-shirts saying This Is What a Spiv Looks Like.

Dave made this abundantly clear yesterday, when asked in the Commons six times whether he’d ever campaign to get the country out of the EU.

Each time his reply branded him not only as the fanatic of European federalism he is, but also as the unprincipled spiv he pretends not to be: “I want Britain,” he said, “ to stay in a reformed EU.”

This after both the de jure head of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker and its de facto head Angela Merkel declared publicly, unequivocally and, for once, truthfully that no meaningful reform was going to happen.

Had Dave wished to follow Angela’s lead and be truthful this once, he would have simply replied no, he’d never campaign for the Out vote. As it was, he couched the answer in his usual waffle without changing its meaning.

Therefore we can confidently assume that if the Tories somehow cling on to power next May, and if Dave keeps his promise to hold the referendum in 2017, he’ll campaign to stay in.

No doubt the EU will throw the bone of one or two meaningless concessions his way to help Dave propagate his lie about ‘a reformed EU’. The two spivocracies, national and supranational, will fling the sluice gates open and flood the British with an outpouring of scaremongering lies – just like they did in 1975.

The result will also be the same: the Out vote will lose, at which point the unwritten EU law will come into play.

If a national referendum yields a result that’s not to the EU’s liking, the people will be told to vote again and continue to do so until they get it right. However, a pro-EU vote is irreversible, chiselled in indestructible stone.

Hence an In-Out referendum will spell relinquishing Britain’s sovereignty irretrievably and eternally, which is hardly the result desired by those who are pushing for it.

The only way for the country to get out is for the next election to produce a government in which Ukip will play a serious role. This can only be a Tory-Ukip coalition in which Ukip could mobilise the anti-EU faction within the Conservative Party to force Dave to do what he hates: campaign for the Out vote.

In any other scenario Britain is almost guaranteed to become and remain but a gau in an EU dominated by Germany. I just hope we’ll still be allowed to wear poppies on 11 November.

My new book, Democracy as a Neocon Trick, is available from Amazon and the more discerning bookshops. However, my publisher would rather you ordered it from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.htmlor, in the USA, http://www.newwinebookshop.com/Books/0002752

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