It feels like I’ve been in election mode all year.
In February I was selected by UKIP to stand for the London Assembly election on 5th May. No sooner was that election over than the campaign for tomorrow’s EU referendum commenced.
The latter is immeasurably more important of course, and for me the London campaign during March and April was actually about the EU. I cited the adverse impact of Brussels on London at every opportunity.
Campaigning over the past seven weeks though has been particularly intense as it is absolutely vital that we Leave the EU. The proposed European Union superstate, the ‘United States of Europe’, has many hallmarks of the Moscow-based USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) which imploded in 1991 after 70 years of economic misery and social/political woe; we must get out before it is too late.
The latter was socialist of course while the former is corporatist; the latter was hard authoritarian whereas the former is soft. But the intention of both was/is to shoe-horn more and more countries into an undemocratic structure of central control and regulation in order to force a massive single entity with a single identity.
The EU’s flag-waving European Anthem, the Ode to Joy, a “celebration of the brotherhood of man”, has become a masterpiece of irony as Greek pensioners and Spanish young unemployed will tell you. EU joy and economic brotherhood doesn’t extend to vulnerable people at the margins.
The same hubristic empire-building spirit has been abroad before in Europe. The EU superstate is Napoleon without the guns, Hitler without the gas chambers, and the British are right to be sceptical once again.
A Brexit result in the referendum undoubtedly will be a Waterloo defeat for Brussels. However it will also create an opportunity for self-reflection and a new humility amongst the Eurocrat elite. And maybe, just maybe, there will be decentralisation and democratic reform of the EU and a return to the original concept of a common market.
It has been a fascinating seven weeks. I have distributed thousands of leaflets; had discussions and occasional arguments on the streets; engaged in public debate with Remainers from both Houses of Parliament; discussed the EU and immigration on Turkish state television; spoken at two church Brexit meetings; campaigned both from UKIP’s national battlebus and from UKIP MEP Gerard Batten’s Vote to Leave minibus; written a Brexit piece for the local paper; and tonight will be out in the early hours erecting Vote Leave posters ahead of polling which starts tomorrow at 10.00am.
But two things stand out for me:
First, I have been delighted at the support for Brexit from ethnic minority communities. I’ve campaigned primarily in multi-ethnic east London where I live. It is clear from here that established immigrant families from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean are concerned about the recent and rapid migrant influx from eastern Europe with the resulting downward pressure on jobs and wages and the growing burden on schools, housing and hospitals.
They also rightly see EU migration policy as giving preference to white Europeans, and therefore racist.
I reckon 60% of ethnic minorities are firmly for Brexit.
Second, I stood on Westminster Bridge during the Bob Geldof’s ‘Battle of the Thames’ last week when the millionaire luvvie on his luxury floating gin-palace, his face contorted by hate, sneered and pumped vulgar V-signs at the flotilla of fishermen, led by Nigel Farage, whose livelihoods have been wrecked by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. As Brendan O’Neill points out, Geldof brilliantly if inadvertently illustrated the cosmopolitan establishment’s superior and dismissive attitude towards what their frock coat and top hat-wearing Victorian forbears called the lower orders.
I spotted young children in one of the small rubber dinghies that accompanied Geldof and harassed the fishermen’s flotilla. “They’ve lost the plot! They’ve got young kids in that boat!” I blurted out to my companion, eyeing the rough water and hostile boats. “Why are those kids not in school?” he asked.
The next day we learned about Jo Cox’s tragic death in her constituency, and I learned with disbelief that it was she and her husband Brendan who had taken their children into the river drama in the vulnerable small boat.
My heart goes out to her husband and the children for their loss. However in the light of Geldof’s bile and the on-river risks to which the out-of-school children were subjected, I found Brendan’s high-minded statement following Jo’s death, that people should “unite to fight hate” and that “our precious children should be bathed in love” rather too hypocritical for my taste.
Will we win the referendum tomorrow? Three months ago I reckoned we were faced with an impossible uphill task and that status quo inertia would win the day.
But we gained traction thanks to the uncontrolled immigration issue and the over-reach of David Cameron’s Project Fear, and today, despite continuous pounding by the heavy guns of the political, media and corporate elite, the polls tell us it is neck and neck.
I remain hopeful that we will vote Leave.