Monday, 30 May 2016

Faction, blundering, degrading: Napoleon views the referendum campaign

I have been taking refuge from the low-grade arguments of the referendum by reading Andrew Roberts’ book, ‘Napoleon the Great.’ Problem is, once you have the referendum on your mind, it turns up everywhere. 

Try this, Napoleon speaking to a trusted confidant as he positioned himself for the Brumaire coup against the Directory which brought him to power in 1799:

‘The triumph of faction, parties, divisions, is the fault of those in authority only…No people are bad under a good government, just as no troops are bad under good generals…These men [the Directory] are bringing down France to the level of their own blundering. They are degrading her, and she is beginning to repudiate them.’

For the division of the Leave movement into faction, parties and division, blame the personal and financial ambitions of the leaders of the designated Leave campaign, Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings.

Mix that in with their determination to keep the designated Leave campaign ‘pure’ of UKIP, a policy which has done nothing except turn UKIP into a faction doing little except whining ‘that’s not fair.’ 

Add also their antagonism towards Arron Banks (absolutely reciprocated by Banks, who anyway would rather fight with Elliott and Cummings than draw up a Brexit plan), and you have a campaign with no coherent message and no plan at all to assure voters that there is a way Britain can move smoothly out of 40 years of entanglement with the European Project.

On the Remain side, this referendum on how Britain will be governed, by her people and ancient Constitution or by the EU, has degenerated into nothing but a proxy fight for the next Tory leadership.

For the blundering, start with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and continue right down through Nigel Lawson and every other leader of the designated Leave campaign. 

On the Banks-Farage side, the blundering starts with imagining a campaign can be won on little more than ‘We want our country back’ and ‘Points based immigration system.’

For degrading Britain, start with the Prime Minister and work down through every Cabinet minister willing to lie that David Cameron has delivered a ‘reformed’ EU which gives Britain a ‘special status’— that’s what today’s Cameron five-point guarantee card claims, that Britain has a ‘special status’ in the EU -- and that there is no way to leave the EU without national economic collapse.

Which means under the rubric of degrading Britain, we must also put the national news journalists who have reported that ‘guarantee’ today without noting – so we must assume they still haven’t figured it out – that the ‘special status’ Cameron claims to have won in his negotiations earlier this year has no legal standing at all.

That means the government can offer no such guarantee. The pledge is a fraud.

In the February conclusions of the European Council, which presented the inter-governmental deal agreed with Britain, officially the ‘new settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union,’ does not yet exist, it depends on a future treaty change.

Until then – and there may be no treaty change for years -- it means nothing. Even then, any single member state can veto any new treaty. 

Factions, division, blundering, degrading: there you have it, the leaders of both sides of the referendum.

On day, as France did, Britain will repudiate them all.

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