Kenneth Clarke on those European bogeys under the bed

Published by Daily Mail

Kenneth ClarkeKenneth Clarke has held almost every senior Office of State. He has been Health Secretary, Education Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is presently Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

You’d think, with all this experience, that his political antennae would be finely attuned to the will of the demos. But decades of cigars and scotch in smoky jazz clubs seem to have dulled his judgment. Either that, or he never had any – at least where ‘Europe’ is concerned.

According to a ConservativeHome/Channel 4 poll, 83 per cent of Conservative Party members want in In/Out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. This doesn’t, of course, tell us anything about the likely replicability in the wider country: the validity and reliability of the ConHome/C4 data is questionable, not least because participants are not randomly selected and respondents tend to be those who favour change from the status quo.

There are better methods of designing social inquiry than canvassing the biased, but the poll comes as a fillip to those of us who agitate for liberation from the EU.

Undoubtedly, if such a pledge were to be included in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto, it would put the requisite clear blue water between them and the Liberal Democrats, and so signal the end of the era of coalition compromise. It would also fertilise the etiolated and faded grassroots in local Conservative associations, which are haemorrhaging members to UKIP (though more to apathy).

An In/Out referendum would help to unite a party fractured after years of coalition tensions and divided about a leader who is not quite as Conservative as he first appeared. Especially now Mayor Boris has come out in favour of the idea.

As someone who stood for the Referendum Party back in the general election of 1997 (and, I must boast, one of the few to break through the 2000-vote threshold), I’d be delighted if the Conservative Party were to take the lead on this – before they’re bounced into it by a similar pledge from a frustrated and power-hungry Labour Party.

Yes, I know the Conservative Party hasn’t got much eurosceptic form (after all, they gave us the EEC, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty), and a manifesto commitment would need to be rather more credible and persuasively genuine than Cameron’s previous ‘cast-iron guarantee’ over the Lisbon Treaty (aka the ‘Constitution for Europe’). But, for good or ill (for, with much of the media and the entire Establishment ranged against the ‘Outs’, a referendum may easily be lost), there seems to be a sense of inevitability that the Day of Judgment is near. And 2015 would be the 40th anniversary of the 1975 referendum, so it has a generational neatness to it. All reasonable and rational people – pro and anti – can see that the EU is not the same beast as the EEC: national sovereignty is manifestly negated when subsumed to an overarching and ever-increasing corpus of diktats and directives. The case for a plebiscite is unanswerable.

But not for Kenneth Clarke.

According to him, those who are concerned about UK/EU constitutional tensions and the erosion of our traditions of law and customs are just ‘frenzied eurosceptics’. He spluttered: ‘I cannot think of anything sillier to do than hold a referendum. I’m not keen on referendums, I see no case for this referendum.’ An In/Out referendum is, according to him, simply ‘the demand of a few right-wing journalists and a few extreme nationalist politicians’. And so he dismissed the plea and berated those of us who ‘keep believing that European bogeys are under the bed any time we get into any problems’ because he ‘cannot think of anything sillier to do than to hold a referendum’.

The only bogeys I’m concerned about are the euro-fanatics who, far from cowering under the duvet, are grotesquely sprawled naked all over it, bloated belly and shrivelled genitals shamelessly displayed for all to see. The only thing sillier I can think of than an In/Out referendum are the absurd, senseless and pretentious pronouncements of misguided buffoons like Ken Clarke. A referendum is not merely the cry of ‘right-wing journalists’ or ‘extreme nationalist politicians’: it is increasingly the majority view of the entire country (latest polling suggests some 70 per cent support the idea).

And so far 71 MPs from the four corners of the United Kingdom have signed up to the People’s Pledge campaign, which seeks to bring about the desired referendum. These include Anne-Marie Morris MP (Newton Abbott), Mike Freer MP (Finchley & Golders Green), Nick De Bois MP (Enfield North), John Redwood MP (Wokingham), John Cruddas MP (Dagenham and Rainham), Tom Harris MP (Glasgow South) and Rosie Cooper MP (West Lancashire). Renowned ‘extreme nationalist politicians’ all.

Kenneth Clarke should keep his extreme pro-European, anti-State, anti-individualist, socialist, federalist Bilderberg beliefs to himself. There are very many intelligent, reasoned and discerning people who want a referendum because we’ve never been asked. And those who us who were asked were manifestly lied to. Silly or not, this is the mother and father of all political bogeys, and it isn’t going to go away.