David Cameron is no Socrates, Boris Johnson no Plato, Nigel Farage no Wittgenstein. The political process is not a symposium or a tractate: it is a chaotic forum in which the rough and tumble of opposing interests and inclinations are resolved peacefully. This takes us to current events. Although the alternative to politics is violence, the alternative to any given policy is another policy. Since last Thursday’s tragedy, there has been no shortage of lachrymose innuendoes inviting the electorate to deny this. The only good thing is that - with one or two exceptions - the Outers have managed to avoid being provoked.
From these preliminaries to the specifics of Britain’s ill-tempered referendum campaign. Was it fair last night for Sadiq Khan to counter “Project Fear” with “Project Hate”? I would say not, while granting that it was altogether of a piece with a campaign in which both sides have resorted to nonsense, exaggerations and hyperbole. This is no reason to be prissy. Maybe some of the heightened rhetoric has served the purposes set out in Why the Vitriol?, but it has also flushed out the essence of the matter: “Leave” threatens economic uncertainty; “Remain” threatens self-determination. It now falls to me to summarise why I will be voting Leave.
I trained as an economist and worked for fifteen years in the City after fifteen years in industry. This leads me to place zero weight upon economic models which can only be based upon arbitrarily chosen assumptions. Industrial worthies talking up “Remain” follow an inglorious path blazed by their predecessors. Most backed the Euro as well as (who now remembers?) the closed shop, in the eighties still a great favourite of industry and its cheerleader, the Financial Times, as reducing shop-floor indiscipline.
As I prize self-determination, I would prefer to debate immigration with my fellow countrymen, unshackled by European restrictions. As it happens I incline to liberality on the topic. Even so, for all that I bridle at a diktat from overseas on this, I am happy to defer to a national consensus.
The EU was intended to be a force for peace, but all too often its ends have outrun its means. Its signature policies, the Euro and Schengen, are in turmoil. Worse still, its failures in the Balkans and the Ukraine have cost thousands of lives. It can only solve its problems by taking more powers and levying more tax. To put this another way, I’m sure that Cameron got the best deal he could, but the EU is a moving target. In order to correct its weaknesses in security and economics, Brussels will be obliged to move in a direction few Britons will relish. If remaining, we will once again become habitual malcontents. This would be bad for us and bad for our neighbours.
With characteristic untidiness, the nation is worrying its way to a resolution. As I write, three out of four of the final canvasses are within the margin of error, though the bookies are increasingly certain for “Remain”. Tomorrow, the people will render their verdict.
Good luck to us all.