In the debate about the EU and Britain’s place within it, one of the most pernicious myths spread by mainstream politicians, and shamelessly sanctified by an ever compliant and frighteningly incurious media is, “The EU just isn’t a concern for voters”.
It is always said with an imperious nose held high or a patronisingly dismissive sweep of the hand, sometimes both, if a LibDem is saying it. This is an issue for the political anoraks they will say, or the malcontents on the Tory back benches; talking about Europe is giving in to the obsessions of an unrepresentative minority of “swivel-eyed loons” in the shires, you will hear. It is always painted as a British issue, a conservative issue, neither contention, however, being even remotely true.
In other words, of course, the sneering “nanny-knows-best”, metropolitan elite will tell you what is and isn’t important and anything which might even begin to ruffle the cosy Westminster stitch-up is definitely off the agenda.
It did get me thinking though. As all myths have a basis in reality, am I letting my own personal prejudices against the EU, and all of its hideous works, get the better of my normally faultless judgement? Shocked, I had to admit it was a possibility, so I set about looking for some answers.
I found BBC polls, I found ICM voter surveys, I found British Social Attitudes Reports and even an Economist/Ipsos MORI Issues Index of 2013 which even suggested “the EU” wasn’t an issue at all.
But then we also know that it’s not just the questions one asks but also the way one asks the question.
On this, the BBC, in 2005, stated;
“On Iraq, it is interesting to note how question wording changes the answer. For example, ICM (on 24-26 April) asked which single issue was most important to their voting decision – and only 3% said Iraq. But in a MORI poll (between 7-ll April), which asked which of any issues would be “very important”, 18% mentioned Iraq.”
What then do these oh-so-important issue trackers say? Well, it is worth mentioning here that they say completely different things at completely different times when different companies ask different questions in different ways.
The IPSOS/MORI survey, referenced above, shows:
In another survey, TNS suggest it isn’t the economy – stupid, it is actually immigration – stupid (30%), beating the economy, taxation, crime, health, and education with only 8% getting their knickers in a twist over the environment and “global warming” – or “the weather” as it is otherwise known.
“Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything,” said Gregg Easterbrook and he was right. On their own, these figures are meaningless, as is any question arising from them or answers to them. They make for easy, glib soundbites so loved by lazy journalists on tight schedules and/or self-interested, biased politicians who then give themselves free passes and pats on the back all round.
Take for example “the economy”. It is always there or thereabouts in the upper reaches of any list of voter concerns. Are the people who say “The British people don’t care about the EU” really saying “the EU has no effect whatsoever on our economy (which apparently the British people actually do care about)?”
Aren’t these the same people who will also (and debatably) tell you that the EU takes 40% of our exports? Are they not the same people who tell us how absolutely vital the eurozone is for our very survival? Are they not the same people who will tell you that it is fundamental the euro survives and that we must send billions to the IMF in order to ensure that happens?
Either the EU is important to our Economy or it is not. If it is, then it stands to reason that the seemingly endless round of economic and political crises affecting the EU are at least an aggravating factor in the concerns the British people express over the economy. If on the other hand, the EU has no effect on the British economy whatsoever, then why the hell are we allowing it to cost us in excess of £118bn pa?
They surely cannot have it both ways but that is precisely what our media is, by and large, allowing them to do and it is an utter disgrace.
Similarly we can look at other items on the list, “Immigration” for example. If immigration from the EU hasn’t been responsible for at least some of the problems this country is experiencing then nothing has. As Migration Watch notes, “There has indeed been a massive inflow of migrants from Eastern Europe; by 2010 the number of people born in Eastern Europe but resident in the UK had risen to 776,000.” Of course, this is only part of the toxic legacy of the Labour Party’s immigration policy but it is a significant part of the problem and one that is only set to grow when 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians gain full access to the UK from January 2014.
The impact of this immigration, particularly since 2004, has been of course, massive.
We can see it in our A&E departments, some of which are at breaking point, that are having to cope with increasing numbers due to a variety of factors; problems with GP services; the failure of the 111 number service, as well as increased demand from immigrants; in our prisons where the numbers of Eastern European inmates is soaring; on our police forces and on the job prospects of our youth with 75% of all jobs (equivalent to more than 3 million) created since 1997 going to immigrants.
Of course, our politicians, who sent out search parties and opened the floodgates of uncontrolled immigration, badly misjudged the mood of the British people on this issue. So they came up with the myth of the lazy, drug addled, drunk and benefit-addicted British youth in order to cover their blushes; make no mistake, myth it is and if they had said “black people” or “Kenyans” or “Pakistanis” they would be guilty of the racism they so often accuse others of. In the case of British youth, they think they can just get away with this ugly, defamatory slur. Well, they will only get away with it if we let them. I for one will not.
So, looking at our list I would say that:
Indeed, looking at every single item on the above list it is almost impossible to miss the grubby Bruxellian fingerprints, either through direct interference or as a consequence of our membership or treaty obligations, for example;
“Meanwhile, it has been estimated that in primary and secondary schools in England there are 702,000 pupils who spoke at least 300 different languages.”
“The NHS budget will be put under further pressure by the opening up of the NHS to anyone in the UK, whether their stay is legal or not. The latest guidance issued in July 2012 opens up primary NHS care to visitors and illegal immigrants.”
“The waiting lists for social housing in England rose by 70%. Looking ahead, 36% of projected new households will be due to immigration; that will require building about 330 new homes every working day for the next 23 years”
We also know how difficult it is to deport dangerous foreign criminals, such as terrorists, murderers, rapists, paedophiles and the rest, back to their countries of origin because of the way the European Courts “interpret” a variety of different Human Rights provisions.
“AH HA!” I hear the Europhiles screech, “but the courts are not part of the EU…” And of course they would be right, technically. What these same people would be reluctant to say, however, is that our memberships of the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) and ECJ (European Court of Justice) are intrinsically linked to our membership of the EU, to the point where it is now doubtful if a nation can become a member of the EU without also being a member of both the ECHR and ECJ.
So, rather than being of no concern to voters, the EU is a massive component part, either directly or consequential of our membership, to every single one of those issues which are of concern. Those who state otherwise, including their compliant friends in the media, are being, at the very best, deeply dishonest in suggesting otherwise.
One would also think, from the remarks of those who fetishise such lists, that the items on them were in some way sacrosanct, that they can be used as armour against the evil forces of Euroscepticism. This would only hold true if, under the current arrangements, British politicians were actually capable of doing anything more than tinkering around the edges of any of them.
When a frustrated Steve Hilton quit No.10, he did so, in part, due to the interference of the EU in our democracy and our politics, with a large number of the Conservative Party’s post-electoral policies being adversely affected by it.
I’m betting some of those items were on that list too.
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