Owen Jones, unable to think of one positive thing to say in support of the European Union, focuses his attention on mocking the Leave campaigns
Owen Jones can’t make a full throated defence of the European Union and Britain’s place in it, because in his heart of hearts he knows the EU to be a bad, terminally unreformable institution in which we should play no further part. Of that I am absolutely convinced, no matter how deep in his subconscious Jones may have buried his natural euroscepticism.
But to avoid alienating his virtue-signalling left-wing readership who instinctively support the EU (either out of simplistic internationalism or the cynical knowledge that being in the EU imposes stricter employment and social laws on the UK than British voters would likely tolerate themselves), Jones has walked back nearly all his earlier principled criticism of Brussels, and now bleats the usual fantastical nonsense about staying in the EU to transform it into some kind of socialist utopia.
Thus, unable to make a passionate argument in favour of the European Union, Jones must content himself with making snide observations about the Leave campaigns (who regretfully seem to provide him with near endless material). He cannot make an honest intellectual or moral case for Remain, so he deflects by snarking at those who want to reclaim British democracy by leaving.
And so we get stuff like this, in which Jones wastes an entire YouTube video smugly pointing out that pro-Brexit Conservatives are moaning about the Remain campaign waging “Project Fear” when many of them adopted similar arguments against Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum, and against Labour and the SNP in the general election last year. Because, according to this bizarre logic, two wrongs (the Evil Tories doing it before, and the Remain camp doing it now) cancel each other out.
Project Fear. That is how Chris Grayling, who is a Tory cabinet minister who supports Brexit – Britain leaving the European Union – that’s how he is describing the campaign led by the government to stay within the European Union. As soon as I heard him describe the campaign to stay in in those terms, all I could think was “you cheeky git!” It reminds me of the Yiddish expression, chutzpah.
[..] Then there’s Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, who in the weeks before the general election said “Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister”. Again, you had co-ordinated attacks by big businesses warning of economic calamity were Labour to enter Number 10. Project Fear on speed, quite frankly. The whole campaign was waged on the basis of fear.
Now, the people complicit with that included, obviously, the likes of Chris Grayling and his colleagues in the Conservative cabinet, and the Conservative backbenches who now support Brexit and who are angry at those tactics, as they see it, being employed against them.
We can expect to see a lot more of this finger-wagging nonsense over the next few months from those who are determined to keep Britain inside the European Union.
Some of them refuse to make positive arguments for the European Union because they actually rather dislike it, but hold Britain in such low regard that they believe that despite being many times the size of independent countries like Australia and New Zealand, Britain is uniquely incapable of functioning independently outside of a regional political union.
Others shy away from talking up the European Union because they genuinely love the institution, want us to integrate even more deeply and therefore worry that they might get too carried away praising Brussels and so harm their own side.
Others still dislike the European Union and know full well that Britain could prosper outside this anachronistic mid-century supra-national political union, but persuade themselves to support Remain for fear of the social stigma that comes with declaring oneself a eurosceptic in certain circles.
But in no case will they be honest with the British people, because they have all come to the conclusion that telling what they see as difficult truths – in their case, that the European Union is a good thing for a, b and c reasons, and Britain should continue to participate because of x, y and z – will not win the referendum, but that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) will do the job quite nicely.
Owen Jones rightly bristles at the way that the “No” campaign wielded this tactic in the Scottish independence campaign, which would make you think that he opposes it being used by any group and in any context. But apparently not so. Because Conservative Leave supporters “brought it on themselves” by utilising FUD tactics in the past, the Remain camp should not be criticised for doing so now.
It is a shame to see Owen Jones – at his best an intelligent and articulate voice on the Left – frittering away his time on the EU referendum campaign by pointing out the foibles and tactical hypocrisies of the Leave campaign. But what other choice does he have? Despite knowing full well that the EU is unreformable, Jones has committed to supporting Britain’s continued membership.
I think that this is a betrayal of the democratic accountability and local control that Jones spends much of his time promoting. And I suspect that he does, too. Which is why we can all expect to see lots more “gotcha” videos on YouTube criticising individual members of the Leave campaign, but not a damn thing praising the European Union or explaining how this magical socialist “reform” of the EU is to be achieved.
After all, nothing distracts from a guilty conscience like pointing out the flaws, failings and inconsistencies of other people.
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