Richard North, 31/05/2015  

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For the first time since the general election result, we now see a newspaper report of an intervention by the Electoral Commission on the timing of the referendum.

The view of the Commission, we are told, is that May 2016 is too early for the referendum, which should not coincide with local elections. But it also says, according to the Independent on Sunday, that there should be a period of at least six months between the referendum legislation being finalised and the date of the poll.

Actually, it has already said that there should be a nine-month gap, so there is an apparent conflict in the reporting. Nevertheless, this most recent report establishes that there should be a fairly substantial period between the Royal Assent on the European Referendum Act and the poll – making a 2016 vote extremely unlikely.

This, of course, should already have been apparent to even the most intellectually challenged of commentators, but it hasn't occurred to the geniuses in the Fourth Estate. But it does not take a rocket scientist to work out that there are administrative procedures to complete before a formal campaign can start and then, for such an important constitutional issue, a reasonable time must be allowed to conduct the campaign.

Perhaps putting this into perspective is a book I have been re-reading on the London Blitz, by Constantine Fitzgibbon. He recalls the difficulty in organising the response to the expected air raids, one reason being "the invincible stupidity and frivolity of a large portion of the public".

This certainly applies in spades to the latest effluvia from Hannan who seems to have transcended his normal level of incoherence, attaining new heights of idiocy.

Despite the very obvious problems with the so-called "Swiss model" – of which the Europhiles are fully aware, this loose cannon is telling the public that voting "no" means "voting for a Switzerland-style relationship with the EU; one based on commerce and collaboration rather than political fusion".

For years, Hannan has been beating this drum, with no concessions to reality, heedless of the havoc that is going to be caused when there is a highly publicised spat between the EU and Switzerland over free movement of persons, only months before we go to the polls.

Hannan's own ego has now inflated to the point where any good he ever did for the eurosceptic cause has been undone by his wilful refusal to address his own intellectual limitations and accept that he's got it wrong.

As if this was not bad enough, though, Ukip in the form of Jonathon Arnott seems to be rushing to top up the fund of "invincible stupidity and frivolity", with an ill-conceived list of five reasons why we should leave the EU.

Never mind that an effective campaign requires that the reasons for leaving should mesh with the exit plan, so that we do not expose inconsistencies in our arguments which can be exploited by the opposition.

Any such tactical appreciation, however, is way beyond the capabilities of Ukip officials who, in any event, have not troubled themselves to prepare a coherent exit plan, despite the millions in EU funds on which they have enriched themselves.

As a result, Arnott advocates saving "£55 million+ of taxpayers' money every single day to Brussels", a promise on which we cannot possibly deliver, the usual mantra of "controlling our borders", which is both impossible and irrelevant in terms of limiting immigration; regaining the freedom to make our own laws – even though global trade and co-operation requires global rules – and the fatuous aim of stopping EU red tape and regulation "strangling our small businesses".

On the latter issue, Arnott should (but will not) listen to Cameron's own rhetoric on cutting red tape. This will be fortified by the European Commission's own initiatives which, if handled properly, send convincing messages to the politically uncommitted. Ukip's pathetic bleating will be drowned out – before even it becomes clear that the scope for reducing regulation is minimal.

To complete the line-up, though, we have Arnott telling us that if we leave the EU, we would be free to develop our global trade links and create new jobs. What he doesn't say is that his party's absence of planning would engender a desperate need to create new jobs – to replace the millions lost from Ukip's bankrupt policy on continued trading with the EU.

With this being the best that Ukip has to offer, I rather sympathise with the view of a noted campaigner, who recently told me he was reluctant to get involved in the referendum campaign. He was, he said, "tired of working with stupid people".

Yet, even to this day, the legacy media is vying to match the campaigners in the stupidity stakes. Way ahead currently is the Sunday Times, suggesting that the Europhile Boris Johnson should head the "no" campaign. "Invincible stupidity and frivolity" in this instance doesn't even get close, probably requiring entirely new words to describe the depths to which a once-serious newspaper has plummeted.

But if this is the way the campaign is going to be fought and reported, the temptation to walk away from it begins to look overpoweringly attractive.

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