Richard North, 05/02/2016  

I suppose that if you collected up all (or most of) the lazy "eurosceptic" tropes into one body of work, you would end up with something very similar to the speech given by David Davis yesterday to the Institute of Chartered Engineers.

That made it almost inevitably that it should be picked by Michael Deacon for the Telegraph as the "sane voice of Euroscepticism", even if this lame hack does go on to ask: "but will anyone listen?" However, we will be fortunate if people don't listen, especially as the Mail seems to think that the speech is this MP's bid to lead what the newspaper calls the "out" campaign.

But the Mail's view is so typical of the legacy media, which is not only incapable of realising that we are running a "leave" campaign, but consistently failing to understand the difference between an election and a referendum.

You would think that even idle hacks could have by now have worked it out. An election is largely a matter (these days) of electing a government leader while the referendum is a clash of ideas. In the one, personalities are all-important, in the other they should factor not at all. Even Davis, the MP, had wit enough to recognise this obvious truth, saying of the eternal media quest for "Mr Leave": "Oh, I don't think it matters. The argument matters more than the person".

But this doesn't stop the odious Mail publishing a self-regarding comment piece entitled: "Who will speak for England?" It invokes the spirit of September 1939 when, in response to a dithering speech by Neville Chamberlain, deputy opposition leader Arthur Greenwood was enjoined to stand back from the appeasement posture and "speak for England".

The double irony here is that, in the run-up to 1939, the Mail's proprietor, Lord Rothermere had not only favoured appeasement but had actively supported Adolf Hitler, taking his paper with him in singing his praises. And it is this same newspaper which does not support withdrawal from the EU, arguing on 22 October 2011 that the then crisis (as opposed to this current crisis) offered "a perfect opportunity to renegotiate our terms of membership".

This is a newspaper which has become a by-word for amateurism and superficiality, yet writes an excoriating piece on how "rank amateurism, jealousies and petty hatreds are tearing apart the rival 'Out' camps" – another one unable to distinguish between "out" and "leave. 

Yet the Mail  feels qualified to tells us that voters are "crying out for an informed and lively debate on the crucial issues". Instead, it laments, "they're being treated to a one-sided, stage-managed charade of scaremongering, spin... and censorship". For once, they must have been reading their own copy.

Furthermore, knowing how the legacy media has set its face against any mention of Flexcit, there is not a single newspaper that can with any validity complain about censorship – at least, not without a very large measure of hypocrisy.

Also attempting to personalise what it also calls the "out" campaign is the Financial Times which would have it that the "eurosceptics" are worrying about the "lack of leadership". The paper claims that there are "40 disparate groups with no single leader, clear campaign strategy or agreed vision".

No matter how many times some of us (including Arron Banks of declare that we do not want a single leader, the media trots out the same meme – the FT bring only the latest in a long line. But, as to a "clear campaign strategy" and an "agreed vision", the paper cannot exactly claim any great perspicacity of foresight when for nearly four years we've been openly calling for a clear strategy.

Interestingly, it was in September 2012 that we were recording Cranmer's observation that the Eurosceptic movement was "fundamentally a clash of gargantuan egos, none of whom will deign to co-operate or collaborate with their co-eurosceptics, principally out of a lack of trust, belief or respect".

We were told not to expect political coherence or campaigning strategy from the Conservatives, Ukip, the Democracy Movement, the Campaign for United Kingdom Conservatism, Better off Out, the Campaign for an Independent Britain, the Freedom Association, or the Liberty League. Said Cranmer, "you have more hope of persuading a Wahhabi Sunni to sup with an Ahmadiyyan and plant the cornerstone of a new mosque".

It was then, incidentally, that his Grace was saying: "until Euroscepticism speaks with one voice - or at least unifies around a single immediate objective - it cannot lead us to the Promised Land". And only a few days ago, we we saying:
Leaving is the means to an end. It what we intend to do with our newly-acquired freedom that really matters and until we have a convincing answer to that, we will never leave.
But suddenly, as befits such occasions, everybody's an expert, with Allister Heath – Matthew Elliott's brother-in-law - peddling the Vote Leave line under the guise of dispassionate comment.

A sensible, moderate anti-establishment campaign telling the public that it deserves a better deal, emphasising the costs of the EU and advocating greater control for the British public over the issues they care about, he says, could go down well. This is despite the numerous injunctions not to get bogged down in fractious disputes about money.

Keeping it in the family, in piles wunderkind James Forsyth in the Spectator, doubtless keeping in with commissioning editor Mary Wakefield, wife of Dominic Cummings. He takes time out to acquaint us with his brilliant insight as he tells us that eurosceptics are "too divided and their campaigns too shambolic" to seize the opportunity afforded by the referendum.

Displaying the pig ignorance common to his trade, though, he moves on to tell us that "the arguments for Brexit are all there, waiting for someone persuasive to marshal them". With that, he neglects to inform us that his magazine, along with other journals, have been consistently and wilfully ignoring the most successful attempt to marshal the arguments.

Once again, it's the bloggers such as The Brexit Door and Lost Leonardo who are doing the heavy lifting. The so-called "professional" journalists simply fritter away their efforts on a tide of triviality and statements of the bleedin' obvious. Meanwhile, the Cummings-Elliott soap opera continues unabated, with Cummings displaying the sort of behaviour that confirms him as a liability to the cause.

It is from the other side, therefore, that we are seeing sense. The Centre for European Reform has actually done something useful in stating that deregulation as part of a Brexit settlement is a non-starter – a point made yet again by Pete North.

This brings us full circle, back to Davis, who tells us that, with Brexit, we "would have the opportunity to reform our economy, pushing through the changes necessary to create a dynamic, modern economy". Listing the benefits we can look forward to, he tells us that we will have such delights as "competitive tax rates, a competitive labour market, and effective, rather than burdensome, regulation".

After Brexit, says Davis, "we can put all that right without asking Brussel's (sic) permission". And what gets me here is the almost child-like naivety. This paints such a simplistic picture, creating the impression that the big bad world out there suddenly becomes so easy to manage, once we escape the shadow of Brussels.

Never mind all the complexities of managing the labour market, dealing with tax competition in the age of globalisation, multi-nationals and free movement of capital. And don't even trouble your pretty little head with the notion that regulation has to be negotiated on a global stage, which gives us some more flexibility, but not very much more.

So, given that we need a debate to sort all these issues out, from where is this debate going to come? The media is incompetent and the politicians equally so, while Vote Leave is bogged down with internal squabbling and the other "big leave" is necessarily focused on winning the designation. (Make no mistake, an organisation with Elliott and Cummings in it that became lead campaigner would be a disaster).

With Vote Leave poisoning the environment, it seems that the last thing we are going to see any time soon is a rational debate about core principles, my so-called third battle. Would someone, therefore, like to tell me when this debate is supposed to happen?

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