Tragic and horrible as the murder of Jo Cox was I was relieved this weekend when there was a pause over campaigning for Thursday’s EU referendum.
I have covered politics for many decades and actually voted in the last referendum to join the Common Market
Bur the standard of debate on both sides of the argument this time has been abysmal and exposed the poverty of argument. And it suggests the calibre of politicians leading Britain has plummeted to a new low.
I don’t believe for one moment the claims from Cameron and Osborne that Britain is going to have huge tax hikes, even more austerity, plummeting house prices and a further squeeze on the NHS if we vote to leave the EU. It seems to be hyperbole gone mad.And anyway with the exception of house prices they have made a good job of doing this while we are a member of the EU.
But nor do I believe that the figures that the NHS will gain an extra £350m a week if we vote to go, that only immigrants rape people or that the whole of Europe is going to settle in the UK unless we take control of immigration.
Certainly if Farage is right it is going to be a funny old Europe, 364 million new immigrants in the UK and countries like Turkey, Roumania and Bulgaria with populations down to a couple of people who decided to stay. This is the politics of fear gone mad – one side of Europe being totally depopulated and the other side full to the brim. It will never happen.
The truth is neither side really knows what will happen. The pro Europe campaigners can’t be certain how a 28 country Europe will develop and those predicting a new Shangri-La if we leave haven’t a clue how Britain will develop outside a big trading bloc.
So it comes down to gut feeling and a basic set of beliefs.
For a start my ancestry is against Leave. I am British born but my ancestors are Dutch, German and Norwegian on my father’s side. I am Lithuanian, Polish, South African, and Russian on my mother’s side. I am Protestant on my father’s side, Jewish on my mother’s side. Two of my grandchildren are Kurdish.
Frankly I am rather proud to have such a diverse heritage and an even more diverse future I have no time for little Englander faux patriotism ( except probably at sporting events!)
But there is a wider issue about Europe. Yes some of the laws -particularly on employment, access for the disabled, and safe goods, clean beaches and climate change – are driven by the European Union.. And that is a good thing.
And one only has to go to Russia – as I have been recently – to see how countries outside the EU – are not disabled friendly.
I am also highly suspicious that the key pro leave campaigners – Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith – are te very people who have been driving policies to deprive the disabled, cut benefits, put up the price of justice and destroy public services. Migrants make a great scapegoat for those dissatisfied with schools, housing and other public services.
And I am little tired of the cliche Brussels bureaucrats. Why has nothing been said about the increasing role of the European Parliament in holding the European Commission in check or the idea that some of these top bureaucrats are going to face Europe wide elections for the first time.
Yes there is a lot wrong with Europe _ I am sceptical about whether the Eurozone can survive in its present form – and I certainly dislike plans for new international trade agreements which take away powers from elected governments and use workers as commodities. But I am not convinced that the UK by itself can fight them any better by standing alone.
I also resent the idea that we have no control in Europe when as the fifth largest world economy we have a major say in all new EU initiatives outside the Eurozone.
So I will vote for Remain to continue sharing the government of Europe – home to my ancestors- and reject the Boris Johnson ego trip of a faux Independence Day on Thursday.