It is the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, the announcement of the Government’s legislative programme for the year to come. But her Majesty might as well stay at the Palace, give the corgis some extra biscuits and enjoy the extended celebrations of her 90th birthday. As for Dave, in a total funk about losing the referendum, he might as well issue a press release entitled “motherhood and apple pie” and spare us all the bother.
Petrified of upsetting the voters in the run-up to June 23, the PM is backpedalling on all fronts. The BBC has been let off the hook, cuts to tax credits and disability benefits have been junked, bold measures on academy schools and the trade union political levy have been scrapped. “PM pledges better life for children in care” was the PR puff headline tucked away on page two in The Sunday Times. He could hardly pledge a worse life, particularly since the outcome for such unfortunates has long been dire.
This is not a government that has run out of puff. It is one that has lost its nerve. The last thing Dave wants is an “omnishambles” Queen’s Speech, so he is planning such epic innovations as better broadband and further regulation of drones. All he needs is John Major’s cones hotline and the headline-writers would really be in business.
With the Queen’s Speech and the business of government consigned to the shadows, the battlelines are drawn: David versus Goliath. The people versus the elites. Not just the elites in the UK but the global elites. Ranged against the supporters of Brexit is a formidable army of the wealthy and the privileged. The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Japan, Christine Lagarde, the all-purpose global technocrat and MD of the IMF, the OECD, the CBI, the IOD, the TUC and just about every Nato chief and former US defence, foreign and treasury secretary you can think of. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are for Remain and now the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has strayed into the political minefield of Brexit with a warning of recession if we have the temerity to quit.
Quite whether the recession will precede the World War Three forecast by Mr Cameron in the event of the wrong result in June is not clear. Certainly, a global conflict, or even one restricted to Europe, would set back growth and muck up the Bank of England’s notoriously flaky forecasts. So may be it is war first and recession later, according to Davos man.
Yet, despite all the heavy artillery lined up on the Remain side, the polls are not moving. Remain and Leave are locked together. No amount of hard pounding has budged the 45 per cent of the country who have taken a close look at Europe and decided they don’t like it. They don’t like their schools and hospitals being inundated with EU newcomers, they like being unable to get an appointment with their GP, they don’t like the way the character of neighbourhoods has been changed irrevocably by immigration, they don’t like their country disappearing before their eyes, they don’t like wages being crushed, they don’t like being unable to find a house, they don’t like the economic timebomb that is the Eurozone sitting on their doorstep and threatening to blow them away, they don’t like the loss of control of our borders and the evident fairly free movement of terrorists from the Middle East, they don’t like Brussels’s contempt for nationhood and democracy, they don’t like the outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money fuelling the whole ghastly circus.
Turn the question around. Would you want to join the EU? Clearly not. So why would you want to stay?
The Leave campaign, outgunned and outspent as it is, is starting to get its message across. It has the Great Campaigner, one Boris Johnson, exuding good cheer as he takes country towns by storm and gobbles up the local produce. He is sacrificing his waistline for the greater good while delivering a much needed history lesson to the effect that Jean-Claude Juncker and his pampered minions are not the first to favour a single Europe. Previous attempts have ended in disaster.
Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith add steel and sound arguments to the fray. Priti Patel, Penny Mordaunt and Andrea Leadsom show eloquently and incisively that this is not a purely male concern. Then there is the inexhaustible, irrepressible Nigel Farage and his Ukip insurgents.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, whose astonishing rise is founded on confronting elites, has said that if he were a Brit he would be for Out and brushed aside Obama’s “back of the queue” threat.
The polling suggests that Remain lead on the economy and security and that Leave score on migration and the cost of the EU. If so, the challenge for Leave is to crank up the debate on the scale and impact of uncontrolled immigration and on the circa £10 billion net cost of membership of this crumbling bureaucracy with laughable pretensions to be a global superpower.
David slew Goliath with a well-aimed stone slung at his forehead. Leave may not secure a single knock-out blow. But if it can spread the word among the people they can confound the elites at home and abroad.
(Image: UK Parliament)
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