What was David Cameron thinking, allowing himself to be pictured joking around with an arch euro-federalist days before the EU referendum?
I strongly suspect that David Cameron will come to regret trying to enlist Jeremy Clarkson and the remainder of the ex Top Gear rabble to support his tawdry and deceitful campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
For while it made a great photo op, our dashing prime minister ladding about with old Clarkson, unfortunately Jeremy Clarkson then opened his mouth and spoke. And what he said was very far from the official Britain Stronger in Europe line of “oh gee, the EU is awfully frustrating, but we have to stick with it because we are just not good enough to handle this whole independence thing”.
No, as we saw earlier this year, Jeremy Clarkson is a committed EU federalist – and to his credit, he makes no effort to hide the fact that he feels European first and foremost, and that he wants the embryonic common European state to hurry up and finish hatching so that he can be a true European citizen.
And so, just when David Cameron needed Jezza to come out with a suitably “Eurosceptics for Remain” soundbite, Jeremy Clarkson instead gave us this (my emphasis in bold):
Really, it’s my gut. My gut tells me, as you know, I feel European, and therefore I want to be in Europe – for no other reason.
Because I’ve heard some very compelling reasons for leaving, sitting next to people who want to leave. And they are quite compelling.
And then Clarkson’s sidekick, James May, joins in the unwitting sabotage:
If I’m honest it’s a gut feeling for me as well. It’s because I feel that Britain is naturally disposed, if we’re not careful, to being rather backward in its view on the world. And there are too many people who think that we’ll be alright because we’ve got the E-type Jag. But that’s just not true, and being part of Europe is part of moving on.
In other words, instead of “I hate the EU too, but we are stuck with it because it’s the only thing on offer”, instead Clarkson and May gave us “Britain sucks and we’re all European citizens anyway! Let’s strive on to complete the grand project!”. Which rather undermines every single thing that the prime minister has been saying since he launched the Remain campaign – namely that the EU is a benign club devoted to trade, cooperation and nothing more, with no intentions to further impinge on our democracy, as well as the already-tenuous idea that voting Remain is in any way the patriotic thing to do.
It also rather contradicts the Remain campaign’s claim to have all of the facts on their side, while we knuckle-dragging Brexiteers exist in a kind of Trumpian, Palinite post-fact world. After all, Jeremy Clarkson’s argument for remaining in the EU doesn’t even remotely touch on the economic scaremongering which is so central to Stronger In’s messaging, which rather calls it into question. If the economic question is key and the “expert opinion” so settled that Brexit would be a disaster, why is the prime minister doing a photo op with someone who couldn’t give two figs about the economy because all he cares about is casting off his hated Britishness and becoming a truly European citizen?
Watch David Cameron’s pinched expression as Clarkson goes on about how European he feels, and then when May waxes lyrical about hopeless, parochial Britain with its backward inhabitants. You can see in the prime minister’s face the suppressed annoyance of a man who realises that his clever photo op has just massively backfired, and that the video footage they are capturing will be of absolutely zero use during the remainder of the campaign.
Why? Because unsurprisingly, the remaining undecided voters in this EU referendum campaign are not themselves ardent euro-federalists. Indeed, almost nobody falls into this peculiar category. And the last thing that the Remain campaign wants to be showing undecided voters – most likely people with no great love for the EU, but with gnawing fears about the economic risks of Brexit – is a self-satisfied millionaire celebrity who probably spends half the year sunning himself in the south of France and who sniffs at Britishness and considers himself European.
But still, one has to respect Jeremy Clarkson for at least being honest, as this blog pointed out when he first nailed his colours to the EU mast:
Unlike an oleaginous Turncoat Tory, Clarkson does not feel the need to butter us up with constant anecdotes about how he hates Brussels just as much as we do, honest. And unlike those bland Remainers on the Labour benches, he does not just mutter inanities about countries “working together”, as though intergovernmental co-operation were not possible without the umbrella of an undemocratic political union.
No, Jeremy Clarkson owns his position, and has the guts to tell us that not only should we learn to love the European Union as it is now, we should actively fight for further political integration.
Of course, this failed photo op took place before the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP changed the atmosphere of the referendum campaign. But it provides a snapshot of a Remain campaign not functioning as well as it should, and making bad tactical decisions – like wheeling out an ardent, unapologetic euro-federalist to try to reach a group of voters with significant doubts about the EU.
Whether or not the Remain campaign has used the past few days to steady the ship and reassert some sensible decision making will probably become clear on Monday, when both campaigns spin back up to full speed. But little vignettes such as this do paint a picture of a Remain campaign in disarray, if not outright panic – which can only be good for Brexiteers.
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