You’ll know the Conservative grassroots member by their swivelling eyes and lunatic-type behaviour, according to an as yet unnamed senior Conservative member whose unattributed remark has been splashed all over the papers like a kiss and tell in the Sun. They might be shouting gay people out of their church or terrorising European economic migrants in your local Polski Sklep.
And senior Conservative members, when they aren’t undermining their own supporters, are confusing and berating the general public in equal measure. They’re about as inclusive as the aristocracy.
Boris Johnson wrote a piece for the Telegraph last week that went thusly: “As a British diplomat once languidly observed, the trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early Christian Church between those who believed that Christ was of the same substance as the Father, and those who said He was of a similar but not identical substance. Was He homoousios or homoiousios? You might say it didn’t make an iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.”
You could probably express this same argument by saying: “The trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early days of Coke and Coke Diet. Does it taste the same? You might say it didn’t make one iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.” Ok. Maybe the last bit doesn’t work. And Coke obviously isn’t religion – although it is more popular – the only countries that it isn’t present in are Cuba and Syria. And likewise, Europe also isn’t a church. But in one fell swoop, Boris alienates anyone who hasn’t closely studied the Crusades, while a simple fizzy drink analogy would have made the same point.
So why would the Boris-friendly Torygraph, along with Murdoch’s Times, seek to stitch up the Conservative aid by reporting on his comments in the first place? Perhaps they are all FT subscribers, which this weekend reported to its wealthy readers that the EU is going to put a €500,000 pay threshold on bankers’ bonuses. Perhaps this is actually a double bluff by the right wing press and the Tory part itself to make the whole EU exit thing sound rather like a good, homegrown idea and not one imposed by friends of those at the top.
There are people – many of whom are members of the Conservative party – that wholeheartedly believe that we should leave Europe. There are many, much less well heard, who believe that we shouldn’t. So far, we have received little actual information on the topic, save that 100 Conservative MPs are very keen for us to have a referendum, they say at the behest of their members. But anyway, no one actually has any idea what the UK would look like after the event. So whether it’s because of Romanian immigrants, ‘elf and safety’, or because it’s going to hit their considerable bank balances, the anti-Europeans can’t be as sure as they sound. So let’s have another costly public vote on something that few people really understand, yeah? Because the Eurovision Song Contest clearly isn’t enough.
Intuitively I believe that Europe is a good thing. I think we are stronger together, weaker apart. And Barack Obama has expressed the same sentiment, whatever that means. The UK just isn’t that big a deal anymore. I like Europeans and I can’t understand why languages aren’t as valued in the UK as they are elsewhere. I feel impotent on the continent. Which gives me some idea of how impotence can actually feel. We have also seen the longest period of peace in the region under the European Union. Which is probably a good thing? An interviewee in the recent Ken Loach documentary The Spirit of ’45, made the rather grisly observation that if we could make killing Germans a legitimate industry, the UK would be thriving.
Some people reckon that with this piece BoJo was positioning himself to be the post-EU UK PM. ROFL? Might I suggest that our exit from the EU could be a long-term strategic plan to break that peace pact and get Britain working again? I can almost see Boris, Churchill-like, wearing a onesie (check it out at the Cabinet War Rooms museum), with a long stick in his hand directing the Boris Bombers. We can just ignore the people, doctor the evidence and send some brave people to their untimely deaths. And then the government will change and everyone will have collective amnesia. We’ll see.
One of his key points was that we are all actually pretty rubbish, with or without the EU. He said if we left we “would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and under-investment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.” Not sure how much of this can be laid at our door… Or even that of Bwussels.
Meanwhile, gay marriage has also become a sticking point for the Conservative party. I’m not quite sure why such an unpopular club would like to alienate willing members who want to give up their individual freedom in the ‘eyes of God’. Likewise, I wouldn’t be so keen to join a club that didn’t want me, although if it was my religion… I guess I’d just want it to be cool to marry the person I love.
So. This week, Conservatives are yet again trying to change the rules of a club that doesn’t really need us to be members while also refusing to change a club that they don’t really want other people to be members of.
Perhaps it’s all these little clubs – much like the ones where swivel-eyed loons of the journo-political variety hang out together – that are the problem.
Smashing illustration of BoJo by Dale Edwin Murray, created for the Sunday Times