Corbynites And Moderates Share The Blame For Revenge Reshuffle Chaos

Miliband appoints Abbott as Health Minister

Nobody in the Labour Party comes away from the shadow cabinet reshuffle looking very good. But particular anger should be reserved for the supposedly mature moderates and centrists, whose claim to be more dignified and trustworthy than the Corbynites has been utterly destroyed

When it comes to the conduct of Labour MPs during the so-called “revenge reshuffle”, LabourList’s Emma Burnell is very much of a “plague on all their houses” mindset.

Of Jeremy Corbyn and his intemperate supporters, Burnell writes:

On what planet is it a good idea to start briefing about a reshuffle and it’s potential casualties over the period more commonly dedicated to peace, goodwill and a slow news cycle?

On what planet is it a good idea to then hold that reshuffle on the day your activists got up super-early, in the cold and the rain to leaflet stations across the country thus stepping all over your own fares campaign?

On what planet is it OK to brief the potential loss of your Shadow Foreign Secretary, then brief he’s staying, then brief he might be going after all, then keep him? I’m sure the public is completely convinced of your faith in him and the job he’s doing. Anyway, not like it’s an important role…

On what planet is it even slightly a good idea to take four days to reshuffle what turns out to be a derisory number of posts?

Valid questions, all. The way that Corbyn conducted this reshuffle can be most generously described as bumbling and naive, but the aggravating words of some of his supporters and loyalists – including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – make it seem downright vindictive and vicious.

To take just one example, it helps nobody that Labour’s shadow foreign secretary now clings on to his job a diminished figure, drained of authority after days and weeks of speculation that he would be sacked. If Jeremy Corbyn wanted to get rid of Hillary Benn because of their opposing views on Syria, that is his prerogative as leader. But to leave Benn twisting in the wind for days on end was not just personally cruel, but also very poor party management.

Of the Corbyn-hating moderates, Burnell writes:

You are not entitled to a Shadow Cabinet position. When you get sacked, take it like a grown up and act with some dignity. Particularly if you know in your heart you’ve given the Leader every reason to do it. Yes, the crowing on the left is hideous. Don’t fight hideous with hideous.

If you want to coordinate a revolution, it will take more than three junior MPs with similar politics. If Corbyn is as unelectable as you think and should be got rid of, stop bloody serving in his Cabinet. Don’t idle up to saying so, resign and get it on a bloody t shirt. If you aren’t going to do that – en masse – then shut the hell up.

Stop blaming everyone else for your woes. “It’s the Soft Left’s fault” “It’s Ed Miliband’s fault” “It’s Andy Burnham’s fault” “It’s Tom Watson’s fault” “It’s Lord Collins’ fault”. It’s your fault. You lost an election and riled the selectorate so badly with reheated, rehashed out of date Blairism. I’m not talking about Liz Kendall’s campaign (though there was far too much Blair there) I’m talking about the last 20 years. Years of disengagement, disrespect and downright dishonesty towards a membership who chose to have their revenge after suffering fools with only seething resentment for too long.

Amen. This blog has been saying the same thing since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as Labour leader – and even earlier. The self-entitled centrists of the Labour Party are currently willing to blame anyone and everything for the rise of Jeremy Corbyn other than the fact that there exists only a rotting abscess where their own sincerely held policies and positive vision for Britain should reside.

When Labour Party members, affiliates and supporters cast their votes in the Labour leadership contest, they were asked to pick between Jeremy Corbyn, two bland machine politicians (Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham) and one unapologetic Blairite (Liz Kendall) whose political bravery could not make up for the fact that she was seen as too similar to the present centrist Conservative government (not that David Cameron’s hysterical critics are willing to accept the fact that the government is centrist).

Given the soul-sapping choice faced by Labour supporters, it is entirely understandable that many of them embraced Jeremy Corbyn, a man who is no Tony Benn but at least maintained the courage of his socialist convictions through long years of unpopularity in the political wilderness. Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy awoke something in the hearts of thousands of people (and not only those on the Left) who had slowly come to realise that for all the calculated bluster there was actually vanishingly little to choose between Labour and the Conservatives, or the bland centrist consensus which captures both parties.

Corbyn’s restive critics within the Labour Party seem to think that Jeremy Corbyn is the problem when in reality he is only the symptom. They think that by continually undermining their leader and forcing him from office they can make everything well again, when in reality they will still be no closer to answering the existential question facing them: what does the Labour Party of 2016 actually stand for? At least Jeremy Corbyn is able to answer the damn question without resorting to focus group approved platitudes – and that’s why he is now leader.

So who is more to blame for the “revenge reshuffle” chaos? I agree with Emma Burnell that neither the Corbynites nor the centrists-in-exile covered themselves in glory this past week, or even these past three months. In fact, the petulant, childish public behaviour exhibited by both sides has been utterly depressing.

Ultimately, however, one has to reserve special criticism, scorn and disappointment for the supposedly calm and rational Labour moderates, including those unremarkable prima donnas who flounced out of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet this week.

Remember, the socialist Left of the Labour Party has not tasted power or influence for well over two decades, in which time their ideas have been marginalised and their ranks depleted. If we are to forgive anyone for acts of political naivety or excessive zealousness these past few months, it should probably be the people who have no living experience of official opposition, let alone government.

Jeremy Corbyn’s centrist critics, on the other hand, have no such excuse for their behaviour. They cannot blame their undignified public temper tantrums on a lack of experience – their wing of the party has been in the ascendency for years, and they know what it is to live and work under the sensationalist eye of the Westminster media. When they feed their foot-stomping anti-Corbyn screeds to the newspapers, they know exactly what they are doing.

Right now, the only claim to legitimacy held by Labour moderates is the rapidly fraying notion that they are the mature, sensible ones in this debate – that unlike the partisan extremists of the Corbyn wing, they are well versed in the art of government and compromise, and can be trusted to provide a rational, serious alternative to the Conservatives.

That claim is currently being shot to pieces, and all because a ragtag group of thoroughly unexceptional moderate Labour MPs are kicking up such a stink about their brief exile from the halls of influence that they would sooner bring the Labour Party crashing down around their heads than suck it up and accept that Jeremy Corbyn gets to call the shots until such time as he loses the support of his party membership.

If an older family member picks a fight with a younger sibling, one typically sides with the child on the basis that the adult should know better, being possessed of so much more maturity and life experience. We would rightly hold the adult to a higher standard.

At present, Labour’s moderates and centrists are holding themselves to the same desperately low standard of behaviour as the most partisan of Corbynites. And it is increasingly difficult to tell which side are the adults in the Labour family, if indeed there are any left at all.

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The Daily Toast: The Christian Case For Brexit, And Against The EU

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There’s nothing Christian – or in any way moral – about throwing away our hard-won democracy in the drooling pursuit of European political union

Adrian Hilton of the excellent Archbishop Cranmer blog has a very noteworthy piece in Reimagining Europe, making the rare (but very welcome) argument against the European Union from a Christian perspective.

Hilton writes:

Unlike many politicians and most bishops and other circulating elites, I don’t equate historic Europe with the political civic empire called the EU, and it seems that my desire for UK secession from this artificial construct makes me ‘un-Christian’.

How welcome these words are. The lazy but insidious notion that the continent of Europe and the political construct known as the European Union are one and the same thing is hugely damaging yet near-universally held. People worry about “leaving Europe” as if by leaving one particular (very expensive) geopolitical club, Britain would literally be levering herself away from the continent of Europe, walling ourselves off in Fortress Britain, when this is clearly not the case.

But the lazy belief that British membership of the European Union is somehow as logical and essential as our geographical location within the continent of Europe is widespread, and so it is unsurprising to see it mindlessly repeated by the Church of England.

The same goes for the risible idea that leaving the EU would be to cease any kind of friendship or cooperation with the other countries of Europe, another argument commonly deployed by europhiles, as Hilton recounts:

“So we stop working with our neighbours; finding common ground; influencing for good – not my idea of Christian,” [Lord Deben] tweeted to me a few weeks ago. Like Jeremy Corbyn, it seems, I’m locked into an otiose 1970s view of the world. Everything has changed, and I just haven’t realised that sovereign nations can no longer work effectively with their neighbours on matters such as trade, taxation and regulation: “Most big international decisions (are) made between EU and US,” Lord Deben asserted, before needling: “Why do you want Britain excluded?”

You see how the caricature goes? The EU is ‘top table’ (though it really isn’t, but that’s another blog post), and Christians who favour UK-EU secession become isolationist, xenophobic, un-(anti?)-Christian ‘little Englanders’. He didn’t say ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, but he might as well have done. My ‘idea of Christian’ is self-evidently blinded by nationalistic bigotry and naively fomenting apocalypse. No matter how much you try to reason back with gracious statistics, humble facts and philosophical insights, the inference is clear and crushing: there is no place in the Church of the Enlightenment for those who identify with the narrow, sectarian parochialism of a national democratic polity. No informed, intelligent or discerning Christian could possibly be so spiritually witless or theologically illiterate as to advocate withdrawal from the EU.

But of course there is nothing Christian about allowing the United Kingdom – our flawed but essentially decent democracy – to be subsumed into an explicitly political supranational union which is the peculiar, flawed vision of founding fathers who – unlike their American predecessors – are largely unknown and unloved, because their elitist vision for technocratic governance so utterly fails to resonate in the hearts of Europe’s citizens.

Neither is there anything “moral” or Christian about divesting ourselves of judicial, legislative and executive sovereignty, only to slowly and stealthily transfer and pool those powers into an entity with which most of us feel absolutely no heartfelt love, affiliation or loyalty.

Or as Hilton so eloquently puts it:

I support the Leave campaign not because I desire economic isolation or social exclusion from the Continent, but to extricate the UK from the unaccountable elitist pursuit of unending politico-economic integration at the expense of democracy, accountability and liberty, which, to me, are perfectly sound biblical principles.

Ask a europhile how these principles are to be preserved in a European Union of relentless, unapologetic political integration and you will be met with a very long silence.

Ask a europhile how they plan to preserve democracy when they undermine the nation state at every turn, and give its powers to a supranational organisation which commands no feeling of affinity, and you will get tumbleweeds. Because they have no answer. Either they have not thought the issue through, or – far more frightening – they have thought about the ramifications for our democracy, but simply don’t care.

Hilton concludes:

We, the governed, ask ‘Who governs?’, and the answer is lost in a pathology of bureaucracy and unfathomable institutional structures which seem purposely designed to convey a façade of democracy while shielding the executive elite government from the inconvenience of elections. We are governed by a wealthy, supranational, technocratic oligarchy, and no popular vote can remove them or change the direction of policy. This might fulfil Lord Deben’s apprehension of righteous government, and I am sensible to the fellow-feelings of European humanity in its unanimous yearning to eradicate civil strife and internecine war. But all I see are disparate peoples desperate for the restoration of national identity against the failures of forced continental integration.

UKIP. Front National. The Danish People’s Party. Jobbik. The Freedom Party. Finns. All across Europe, eurosceptic parties – some mainstream, some more extreme and less pleasant – are flourishing because of a growing number of citizens who have had enough of enforced European political unity and remote government-by-technocrat, and who would much rather that meaningful power returned from Brussels to the level where they feel a sense of belonging – be that their region, province or country.

Too often – at least in Britain, with the media’s patronising and dismissive coverage of UKIP leading up to the European and general elections – we explain away these populist movements, or belittle their support base by suggesting that they are all economically left-behind losers or curtain-twitching village racists.

And it’s partly true, only not as an insult. If you are a well paid professional in rude financial health you can better afford to be a consumer rather than a thinking citizen. You can use your vote to signal your virtue (anyone but UKIP!) or advance your lazily thought out utopian daydreams, with little fear of the consequences. But those of our fellow citizens on the sharp edge of globalisation – those whose livelihoods are impacted by deindustrialisation, new technology, outsourcing and the information economy – tend to see things differently.

This doesn’t mean that we should adopt every nativist, protectionist policy that comes along – because barriers to trade are never the right answer. But it does mean that we should acknowledge that the eurosceptic parties of the Right and the Left are at least asking some important questions that the mainstream parties, trapped in their centrist consensus groupthink, have consistently failed to do.

And too often the Church has sided with the establishment, reflecting the voice of the political class and the prosperous middle class rather than the informed citizenry or the imperilled working class. Worse still, it has done so while shamelessly dressing itself in the robes of enlightened internationalism, progressivism and virtue.

If nothing else, it is encouraging to see that thanks to the likes of Adrian Hilton, they will no longer be allowed to do so unchallenged.

More semi-partisan commentary on Re-imagining Europe here and here.

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The Daily Toast: Bring On Corbyn’s Reshuffle And Purge Of The Cowards

Jeremy Corbyn Shadow Cabinet 2

Jeremy Corbyn’s restive but cowardly shadow cabinet members have refused to put up or shut up with their concerns about his leadership. Therefore, he should fire them. Now.

Rumour has it that Jeremy Corbyn had finally had enough of spineless Labour shadow cabinet members who choose to serve under him by day but run to the newspapers with sensationalist quotes attacking him by night.

The Telegraph reports:

Jeremy Corbyn will spend the Christmas break planning a reshuffle to oust his most prominent shadow cabinet critics that is due to be announced within weeks of the New Year, The Telegraph understands.

The Labour leader and his aides will spend the next fortnight working out how to replace leading internal critics with allies in major a departure from his initial conciliatory top team.

Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, and Maria Eagle, the shadow defence secretary, are high on the target list after their public opposition to Mr Corbyn over Syrian air strikes.

Good. A reshuffle is long overdue.

Let us not forget that it is the restive Labour centrists currently murmuring and plotting within Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet who are responsible for his rise – and the rise of the hard left in general – in the first place.

Hopelessly pathetic Labour leadership candidates like Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper inspired such little inspiration among the party grassroots with their centrist non-vision that Corbyn, an unreconstructed socialist, won the leadership contest by a landslide.

And for the past five years of Conservative coalition rule, the Labour centrists – working under Ed Miliband – engaged in a hysterical, sanctimoniously moralising form of opposition which tolerated the most ridiculous anti-Tory hyperbole in the pursuit of power. This approach – incorporating such tactics as ranting about the supposed “human rights” abuses of the Evil Tories – gave a green light to the crazies and far-left types who have now taken control. The centrists tried to ride the far-left tiger, but were eaten by it.

And yet these losers – these Labour centrists who could barely motivate their own families to vote for them – have the temerity to mutter their discontent to the national newspapers, even while serving in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and being loyal to his face.

These are some of the anti-Corbyn quotations briefed to just one sympathetic journalist, Dan Hodges, by those dull, craven shadow cabinet featherweights who sanctimoniously claim to have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart:

Labour’s internal phoney war is about to be brought to an end by a real war. The mood among shadow ministers has changed. “We haven’t got any choice,” one said to me yesterday. “We have to take him on now.”

This is the dilemma facing Labour MPs after ‘Suicide Saturday’. The size of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory makes it impossible to mount an immediate challenge. But his reaction at the moment of his victory reinforced the impression he cannot be left to lead his party for an extended period. “We can’t wait five years”, one shadow minister said. “Two years at the maximum”.

It’s clear that as the first rays of the Corbyn dawn spread across the landscape, the disparate anti-Corbyn forces have yet to draw up a unified plan of action. “The first thing I’m going to do is shore up my constituency” said one shadow cabinet member. “I’m not taking any chances. If his people [Corbyn’s] come for me I’m going to be ready.”

“What’s the one thing all of Corbyn’s recent appointments have in common?” a shadow cabinet member asked me yesterday. “It’s this. They all hate the Labour Party. They think Labour gets in the way and prevents the voters embracing true revolutionary socialism.”

One shadow cabinet minister has warned of a potential wave of “punishment beatings” being meted out to those MPs who do not show their new leader and his supporters the appropriate degree of respect.

If even one of these quotes had been made by a restive shadow cabinet member about Ed Miliband, such brazen disrespect for the office of Leader would have been front page news, and news channels would have led with stories about an imminent resignation from the Labour front bench.

But under Corbyn’s leadership, the normal rules of behaviour have been suspended – Corbyn’s shadow cabinet feel free to brief against him every day without doing the decent thing and resigning, and the spectacle has become so unremarkable that each instance serves only to add colour to other news stories, rather than making headlines on their own.

Dan Hodges got it 100% right when he said that it is Labour’s spineless MPs – not Jeremy Corbyn – who are now most to blame for destroying the party:

Mass shadow cabinet resignations. A dramatic stalking-horse challenge. Poor-health. An act of God. The bulk of the PLP yearns for anything that will bring an end to their Corbyn nightmare. Anything, that is, that does not require an act of courage or defiance from themselves.

And these people actually aspire to govern us. They have the nerve to represent themselves as our future leaders. Ask us to place in their trembling, fumbling hands decisions of life and death, health and happiness, war and peace.

They will not get their wish. There is no 100,000 strong army of “moderates” riding to their rescue. Good. Labour’s spineless parliamentarians no longer deserve salvation.

The current situation is quite simply untenable. The Labour centrists lost the general election, the Labour leadership election and the argument. They lost. They utterly failed to present a compelling political vision of their own, and so they were turfed out in favour of the Corbynites, who do actually stand for something (however unappealing that vision may be).

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet are duty bound to serve the man who won their party’s leadership election. That’s how it works. If they have irreconcilable differences with Corbyn on fundamental matters of policy or leadership style, they should air their dissent from the backbenches after having resigned on principle, and not continue to moan and whimper while clinging on to their thoroughly unremarkable front bench careers.

So I say bring on the Corbyn cabinet reshuffle. Those who brief anonymously to the newspapers but lack the courage to air their grievances directly do not deserve their positions of seniority.

May many cowardly heads roll this Christmas.

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Star Wars, Libertarian Style

 

Have you ever found yourself thinking that Star Wars could do with a lot less Jar Jar Binks and lightsaber duels, and a lot more marathon eighteen-hour Galactic Senate sessions featuring impassioned filibusters against the authorisation of mass surveillance?

Me too. Then you’ll love reason.com‘s Star Wars Libertarian special, which I now share with you in honour of the release of Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Just in time for the holidays, The Star Wars Libertarian Special features Senate filibusters, border patrol stops, eminent domain, a guest appearance by Edward Snowden, and rarely seen footage from Chewbacca’s galaxy-trotting documentary series about free-market economics.

That’s the stuff. My favourite line:

“The government has increased the cost of risk and so our supplier is increasing the cost of his services – it’s basic economics, Luke. We’re gonna do a little bit of lightsaber work and then I’m gonna have you read a LOT of Milton Friedman.”

More debate on the pressing question of whether Jedi knights are libertarian or socialist can be found here.

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Forget Migrant Benefits In The EU Debate; What About The S-Word?

Alan Johnson - Labour In for Britain

The EU debate is about so much more than relatively petty questions about migrant benefits and immigration. But few from the official “Leave” campaigns are willing to broaden the debate

It is rare for this blog to find itself in agreement with Labour grandee Alan Johnson, chairman of the “Labour In For Britain” campaign group.

But Johnson is absolutely correct in his criticism – expressed on the Andrew Marr show today – that the EU debate has been narrowed down to an insultingly simplistic degree.

LabourList reports:

Johnson, who is leading Labour’s campaign to stay in the EU, appeared on The Andrew Marr show this morning to make the case for Britain to stay in the EU. He pointed out that issues like climate change can only be solved by countries working together, and that the EU was an essential “political union”.

He slammed the Prime Minister for narrowing the debate, saying there has been a lot of focus on Cameron’s attempt to ban migrants who are in work from receiving benefits until they have been employed in the UK for four years. Cameron is thought to have abandoned these plans in favour of imposing new limits on benefit payments to out-of-work migrants instead of those people in jobs. Johnson said this focus had distracted from other important issues.

Forget the orchestrated shenanigans over David Cameron’s supposed tussle with other EU leaders over migrant benefits – this is a ridiculous sideshow obsessed over by a credulous media, as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague and editor Ben Kelly wearily points out.

But Alan Johnson’s broader criticism is devastatingly accurate. From the outset, particularly on the “Leave” side, the Westminster campaign has been incredibly myopic and unimaginative.

We should expect no better from the prime minister – David Cameron is an avowed europhile, has stated numerous times that his preference is for Britain to remain a member of the EU, and has been unable to force the words “campaign for Brexit” from his lips even as a remote hypothetical. And thus it is no surprise that Cameron went in to the renegotiation with no set demands (contrary to the media narrative) but simply with a begging letter to Donald Tusk pointing out areas for discussion.

And those areas do nothing to assuage the concerns of the thinking eurosceptic or Brexiteer. Because the real problem with our continued membership of the European Union is not immigration, welfare, fiscal policy, social policy or the euro. The real problem is the little-mentioned S-word: sovereignty. Because this one word encapsulates all of the many ways in which the EU infringes upon our democracy.

It’s not about Schengen, or the single market – Britain is already outside the former and a full member of the latter. That’s why when David Cameron comes back brandishing something called “associate membership” we should be immediately suspicious, because it will essentially be a formalisation of the status quo, with all of the existing drawbacks of Britain’s EU membership hardwired into a future new treaty, with a few extra problems sprinkled on top as a garnish.

The fundamental issue of sovereignty will go unanswered, because David Cameron is not even raising it as part of his sham renegotiation, and while the overly credulous may believe that a toothless and unenforceable exemption from “ever closer union” is some kind of great victory, it ignores the fact that our union with Europe is already far too close. The EU remains an explicitly political union (as Alan Johnson happily states in his Andrew Marr interview) and Britain remains firmly part of it.

Neither Leave.EU nor Vote Leave hammer the sovereignty aspect, having decided that scare stories about what the EU will do to “our NHS” (genuflect) and other public services will do more to win over the bovine masses. But sovereignty is the key.

Is Britain to be a real democracy, accountable to its own citizens once again? If so, then we need to recognise – and repeat endlessly – that national democracy and the European Union are fundamentally incompatible.

As the preamble to the Bertelsmann Stiftung report “A Fundamental Law of the European Union” (soon heading our way via the Five Presidents Report) explicitly states:

This proposal for a Fundamental Law of the European Union is a comprehensive revision of the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). Replacing the existing treaties, it takes a major step towards a federal union. It turns the European Commission into a democratic constitutional government, keeping to the method built by Jean Monnet in which the Commission drafts laws which are then enacted jointly by the Council, representing the states, and the European Parliament, representing the citizens. All the reforms proposed are aimed at strengthening the capacity of the EU to act.

It’s right there in black and white – a major step towards a federal union. The EU will drive a wedge between nation states and their citizens by enshrining and expanding the model whereby national governments sign off on laws and policies initiated by the EU Commission, while the people will have redress only through the European Parliament, thus (hope the federalists) gradually legitimising the Brussels and Strasbourg parliament.

But you’ll hear none of this from the major “Leave” campaigns, and certainly from nobody within the Conservative Party. The only real exception at present is the small but growing group of campaigners and bloggers coalescing around Dr. Richard North’s site eureferendum.com, who do a good job holding the media to account and pointing out lazy thinking and writing (sometimes including this blog) which unwittingly aids David Cameron’s agenda.

At least the Left and the “Remain” camps are able to appreciate that the EU referendum is a fundamental question of who we want to be as a country, and where we believe democracy and decision making should rightly sit. They have their particular vision – abhorrent to me, but clear and unambiguous – that the UK is a weak and ineffectual country incapable of robustly defending our own national interests, and that the fifth largest economy, formidable military power and cultural beacon that is the United Kingdom can only survive by dissolving our political identity into the European Union. And they will be repeating this message from now until referendum day.

The “Leave” campaigns have no similar clear vision. They believe that the referendum can be won by reducing the great questions of democracy and Britain’s place in the world to a tedious, nitpicking discussion over how many migrants can be kept out of Britain, or how much money saved by renegotiating the terms of our surrender. Alan Johnson’s view is utterly wrong, but at least he has the confidence to state his case.

When will the Leave campaigns appreciate that the referendum cannot be won if people believe that leaving the EU is a leap into the unknown, or when the only ones talking passionately about Britain’s place in the world are the europhiles?

When will the Leave campaigns stop their myopic obsession with issues like migrant benefits, an arbitrary issue picked by our devoutly pro-EU prime minister, which are only designed to distract our attention from the ultimate deal – associate membership – which will ultimately be presented?

And when will the Leave campaigns get over their overriding fear of the S-word?

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