CommonSpace columnist James McEnaney explains why he hopes Britain will remain in the European Union
THE EU referendum campaign may be almost over, but it is still unclear whether there is any light at the end of this wretched tunnel.
The whole sorry business has, from a Scottish perspective, seemed remote for a number of reasons: it’s difficult to get excited about what is, in effect, just a war for the leadership of the Tory party; the Holyrood election was, for obvious reasons, at the forefront of political thinking north of the border; and, though the margins may turn out to be a little finer than anticipated, nobody seriously expects Scotland to do anything but vote to Remain in the EU.
But there’s no denying that the decision being made on Thursday is enormously important, or that we face the very real possibility of being dragged out of Europe. This is all the more concerning when we remember who is behind the push to take us, in the words of a gloriously scathing editorial in the New York Times, from Great Britain to Little England.
There’s no denying that the decision being made on Thursday is enormously important, or that we face the very real possibility of being dragged out of Europe.
There are, it seems to me, three main blocs of the Leave campaign, none of which comes anywhere near to convincing me that abandoning the EU would constitute anything other than, to quote Alex Massie’s brilliant piece for the Spectator, "an act of lacerating self-harm".
First, we have the racists and xenophobes whose champion, Nigel Farage, embodies everything that has poisoned English politics in recent years.
He takes every opportunity to warn us that the Turks are coming, a scenario which is supposed to be terrifying because they are mostly brown-skinned and muslim (white-skinned German women are obviously fine).
Had this campaign been longer Farage would almost certainly have ended up on top of a bright white, open-topped bus, blasting a dog whistle through a megaphone and demanding that we protect our women-folk from the invading hordes. It’s a wonder we’ve not yet seen his Twitter account sharing animated GIFs of rivers of blood.
Last week, he managed to achieve what seemed to be the impossible task of sinking even lower when he launched the latest Ukip poster, featuring a line of desperate Syrian refugees and the slogan 'Breaking Point'. That Farage and his ilk see nothing wrong with resorting to Nazi-style propaganda tells you everything you need to know about them.
The second strand of the campaign is represented by bargain-bin Machiavellians like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
It is not surprising that a supranational organisation which is both demonstrably flawed and maddeningly complex is the latest target for growing feelings of discontent.
On the one hand their main concern is protecting democracy from the supposedly unelected and unaccountable tyrants running the EU, while on the other they are defenders of the obscenity that is the unelected House of Lords.
They suggest that withdrawal from the EU would lead to the end of austerity and an increase in public spending, but the truth is that for them austerity is not a regrettable necessity – it is one of the lynchpins of their entire ideology.
Ultimately, they tell us that we must "take back control" because they believe that they could then usurp it. They are charlatans of the highest order, and I would barely trust them with a knife and fork nevermind the future of 64 million people.
Finally, there is the anti-establishment vote which, it seems, is carrying significant numbers of young voters towards a Leave vote on Thursday.
There are obvious parallels here with other anti-establishment movements both in Europe and America, and it is not surprising that a supranational organisation which is both demonstrably flawed and maddeningly complex is the latest target for growing feelings of discontent.
Don’t forget, we are talking about a generation that has known nothing but a country and continent in apparent decline, and who have been constantly told to lower their expectations about the sort of life they can reasonably hope to live.
I am still tentatively hopeful that Britain will vote to Remain in the EU, but I also hope that the anger driving some of those to vote Leave can then be redirected towards those who bear a far greater share of responsibility for the ills afflicting our society.
They’re angry, and they’re absolutely right to be – but that anger is being misdirected. The hard truth is that their concerns – many of which are entirely legitimate – are being hijacked by the likes Farage and Johnson in the pursuit of an outcome that will make their lives worse instead of better.
At this stage I should probably add, as a mere side note, that there is of course something of a socialist campaign to leave the EU, though it is mercifully small and essentially irrelevant. And no wonder: a leftwing case for leaving the EU at this time and under these conditions? Spare me.
So things are bleak, with a dark shadow cast across this Unreal Country.
Despite all of this, I am still tentatively hopeful that Britain will vote to Remain in the EU later this week, but I also hope that the anger driving some of those to vote Leave can then be redirected towards those who bear a far greater share of responsibility for the ills afflicting our society.
Ultimately, despite the darkness of the last few weeks – which has of course culminated in the political assassination of an MP – and despite my continued support for Scottish independence, I still believe that Britain is so much better than the dystopian hell that the likes of Farage, Johnson and Gove would have us create.
But even if we do vote to Remain, the wounds opened by this toxic campaign will take a long time to heal, and the scars they leave might never fade.
Picture courtesy of James McEnaney
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