Monday, 9 May 2016

The British Constitution: miracles do not cluster

This morning the Times tells us that later today Boris Johnson will attack the idea that the Single Market is a force for good.

We have to assume that whatever Johnson says will be a second step of choreographed ignorance from the official Leave campaign. It will be meant to back the line that Michael Gove gave on the Andrew Marr show yesterday.

If you missed the Gove interview, in the midst of an argument on the Single Market that was wrong on every point of fact, Gove insisted Britain should leave the Single Market. For details of the breadth and depth of Gove’s ignorance, go as usual to Richard North’s analysis on

But just of a taste of the official Leave campaign ignorance that was being presented as fact by the justice minister: he asserted that being a full member of the Single Market – memo to the Minister, there is no other kind of member other than a ‘full’ one – requires you to be in the single currency.

No, it doesn’t. Simple as that. No, being a member, ‘full’ or otherwise, of the Single Market does not require a state to be in the single currency.

With that level of misinformation being presented by a man who is supposed to be one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, the best idea is to assume the brace position in anticipation of the car crash of ignorance that Johnson will present later today.

All of which makes me despair, or nearly so. Trade is a vital part of how the UK will live if it ever again becomes an independent state, so, yes, the arguments on trade post-Brexit have to be well-informed.

But what is getting lost is that the essential argument is not about trade. Britain’s membership of the EU is more than a business decision. It is a decision about how the British people will be governed – by themselves under an ancient system of parliamentary democracy, or not.

These lines from Daniel Webster, a giant of the US Senate in the mid-19th century, keep coming to mind in this debate. For ‘republic’ read ‘United Kingdom,’ and you will see the essence of what is at stake in this referendum:

‘Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again.’


  1. "But what is getting lost is that the essential argument is not about trade. Britain’s membership of the EU is more than a business decision. It is a decision about how the British people will be governed – by themselves under an ancient system of parliamentary democracy, or not."

    I have long admired your writing and as far as this paragraph is concerned I couldn't agree with you more.

    Unfortunately, in all the preceding paragraphs you just contradict that statement.

    You appear to have fallen into the North trap:

    - intemperate sniping at those on the front line for their ignorance;

    - believing that all these details will have any effect on the way the public will vote.

    Over the years North has insulted and alienated almost everyone: as a result he is completed isolated, apart from a ragtag band of tiny single-issue blogsites set up by his idiot son.

    Over the years his monumental ego has made him immune to dissent, criticism or satire: the list of those banned from his website (and his son's sites) is a long one - that includes me.

    Guido sent me to this

    which in turn sent me here

    He's got about six weeks to get back on his meds and start supporting the real case for Brexit, but I fear he is psychologically incapable of doing that. The second link has it right: when the referendum votes for 'remain' he can have the satisfaction of crowing 'I told you so' for thirty years.

    1. Richard. You've made it abundantly clear on several websites that you don't like me or Norths in general. But maybe you need to have a look at the recent select committee meetings - specifically Cummings, Elliott and Banks. You will see the sneering hostility of Cummings with supreme arrogance. You will see with your own eyes just how lacking in knowledge Elliott is. You will see Arron Banks's cavalier attitude to detail. And it is these people we have been warning about for years. We have also warned against taking shortcuts with the facts - because, yes, those details very much do matter. Campaign credibility is everything as you are about to discover.

      Rather than responding with good grace to well intentioned approaches these people have lied to us, and done everything possible to ignore the work we do, not because of how we say it but because it directly challenges long held sacred cows. There is an unassailable orthodoxy in euroscepticism and our whole movement lacks any self awareness.

      And rather than coming at us directly they scribble nasty little blogposts like the one you link to - plotting and briefing behind our backs. That is how these people operate. And it's how you operate. And that's why you are banned from our sites. You are part of the anti-intellectual clan that rejects details and doesn't see the need for re-evaluation of eurosceptic arguments in order to win.

      And as it happens, that ragtag band of bloggers you deride has contributed more to our collective understanding than anything the wastrels in London have produced for years. They work exceptionally hard and are some on the nicest people we know. Markedly different from the Cummmings and Elliots and Hannans of this world.

      Seriously. Go and watch those select committee meetings and just watch the reactions of the people in the room. That's what we've been warning against - and it is their conduct that has ultimately produced such a hostile reaction - not least trading in petty gossip and sniping rather than addressing the points put to them.

      I don't deny for a minute that we're abrasive at times - but you forget we have to go over the same basic points over and over again with people who aggressively assert we are wrong on the basis of a very thin understanding of the complex information we attempt to convey.

      Rather than attempting to use what we produce (and work hard for), largely because it contradicts the hackneyed memes put out by the eurosceptic aristocracy, they set about silencing eureferendum by briefing donors, supporters and benefactors against us - as indeed you are doing now. So if you want to know why you are met with such hostility - that's why. Examine your own conduct.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to post a comment. I don't agree however that being concerned about accuracy by the politicians who are spending millions in taxpayers' money as 'designated' leaders of the Leave campaign is irrelevant to the argument. Trade is important, so that has to be in the debate, and what is said about trade needs to be accurate; just as questions over whether or not British courts will be subject to the ECJ, whether the UK will regain control over its fisheries, and all the rest are relevant. Such issues all form the fundamental question of how the British are to be governed -- by their own constitution or not. As for your personal comments about Richard North, personal animosity is irrelevant to argument, so I won't respond, beyond saying you are not describing the Richard North whose work I have followed for years. As for the two links you include, I note that both lead to paragraphs written by people who are unwilling to sign their names to their opinions. Therefore their opinions have no value. Which is why, at all times, you will find my opinions signed.

  3. It's quite astonishing that you appear genuinely to believe that accuracy is of no import. Perhaps you have not noticed how willing the Remain camp are to publicise the ignorance of the Leave camp (which you risibly describe as "the real case for Brexit") as deliberate lies.