The Spectator's Notes

We didn’t have a real choice in the 1975 referendum. We do now

Also in The Spectator’s Notes: Geoffrey Howe’s memorial; the FT’s EU confusion; Sir Philip Green’s knighthood; Bishop Bell’s reputation

7 May 2016

9:00 AM

7 May 2016

9:00 AM

The comparison between the referendum questions — that asked in 1975 and the one which we shall be asked on 23 June — is interesting. In 1975, the question was ‘Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Community (Common Market)?’ (Answer: Yes/No). Today, the question will be ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of European Union or leave the European Union?’ (Answer: Remain/Leave). The modern question is the fairer, and it also brings out how things have changed. In 1975, it seemed almost obvious that the answer was ‘yes’: even many who did not like EEC entry could see it was strange to leave only a couple of years after joining. The whole issue, like the question, expected the answer ‘yes’. Today, this is much less true. There really is a possibility of leaving and so the question explicitly entertains that possibility. A choice exists. It is this explosive fact which the Remain side seeks to deny.

Tuesday’s memorial service for Geoffrey Howe at St Margaret’s, Westminster, had a more fervent feel than is usual on such occasions. Partly this was because the gentle and courteous Geoffrey was held in much greater affection than most politicians. But partly, too, because this was a wake for a generation of Europhiles now passing, unreplaced. When John Major read from ‘Desiderata’, ‘Avoid loud and aggressive persons’, one could guess whom he had in mind. When Michael Heseltine preached his punchy eulogy, that target was not veiled at all. I feel about Howe’s Europeanism rather as I feel about the men who opposed the Great Reform Bill or the repeal of the Corn Laws — a romantic admiration for those who honourably failed to see the way the world was going.

Last week, I wrote about the fevered state of mind of the Financial Times as British voters threaten to throw off their EU chains. Here is another example. Martin Wolf, usually the best columnist in the paper, wrote a column giving ten reasons to remain. ‘Above all,’ he said, ‘those promoting departure ignore what the UK’s European partners think about the EU. Their political elites, particularly of Germany and France, regard the preservation of an integrated Europe as their highest national interests. They will want to make clear that departure carries a heavy price, which is likely to include attempts to drive euro-related financial markets out of London.’ Those who want to leave don’t ignore this at all! It is precisely because we know how much the German and French elites want more integration that we so much want to leave. Mr Wolf’s argument that we must obey because otherwise they will be horrible to us is, if he would only think about it, abject. It is also, I suspect, beside the point. The same elites are always trying to take euro-related financial markets out of London anyway.

Fighting on another front, the FT wrote a spunky leader last week attacking those who would muzzle climate change sceptics. Following this up, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, on whose board I sit, wrote a letter to the FT, from its chairman, Nigel Lawson, and others. ‘We agree,’ said the letter, ‘that when it comes to global warming “the stakes are so high that all arguments must be heard”. Regrettably, however, the FT has not lived up to this precept… The GWPF has published more than 50 thoroughly professional papers and reports as a thoughtful contribution to a (still one-sided) debate, not one of which has ever been addressed in the FT.’ The letter was sent last Wednesday. At the time of writing, the FT has not published it.

Possibly Sir Philip Green has behaved disgracefully in the matter of BHS. It does not follow that he should be stripped of his knighthood. Think of the consequences. At present, the promise of a knighthood can keep people who might otherwise be independent in line. But once a knighthood has been granted, it can hardly ever be revoked. This means the power of patronage dies. The recipient is no longer in the control of the patron. If knighthoods can be removed, then the power of patronage never goes away and people can be controlled by the government for the rest of their lives out of fear they might lose their title.

The first moves have now begun to restore the reputation of George Bell, the great wartime Bishop of Chichester who was alleged by his own diocese last October to have abused a young girl from 1949 until 1953. Bell’s supporters have worked hard to show that the process by which the diocese arrived at this conclusion nearly 60 years after he died has been inadequate and unjust. It is good news that Chichester Council, having originally removed the portrait of Bell which hung on its Council House staircase, last week decided to re-hang it. Bell has not been found guilty. He has been judged by the Church ‘on the balance of probabilities’ in an out-of-court settlement which no one has been allowed to see. Why should anyone feel compelled to accept the Church’s decision? We should re-hang his portraits unless and until actual evidence is publicly heard and the case for Bell is properly put.

Last week, we turned into our drive and were surprised to find a young couple with two little children picking posies of our flowers and taking them away. We explained that the flowers belonged to us and asked them politely not to do this. They seemed surprised, but politely apologised and left. Then I felt some remorse. The flowers were nice for the young children, I reflected, and why did it matter if we lost a few to them? It didn’t, of course (though I must not give the impression that we have a long drive with any number of daffodils ‘fluttering and dancing in the breeze’). I did not recognise the couple, but if they were to return and ask if they might come in and pick a little bunch or two, I expect we would say yes.

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  • I think people need to think very carefully before they cast their vote in this referendum.

    • Sanctimony

      How wonderfully patronising… you’ve been listening to too much of Van Rompuy’s Haiku verses or that other oaf, Juncker, the Luxembourg p*sshead …. Wonderful that our great country is dictated to by these two pipsqueaks …

      • What’s patronising about warning the public to cast their vote sensibly?

        • Sanctimony

          Your words assume your superiority to the average voter… and suggest that your own intentions or perceptions are more pertinent… that, to me, is being patronising….

        • ObserverinMonmouth

          Vote Leave

    • Jon Archer

      I have and I am voting OUT!

    • ObserverinMonmouth

      I think most do. Vote Leave

  • balls

    Balls, the modern MSM is just as uninformative and silly as it was back then, all that happened was it grew exponentially to an unsustainable scale as it diversified.

  • Jojje 3000

    Out of the EU and into loneliness there at the back of the Q.

    • milford

      Out of the madhouse that is the EU flooded by foreigners and bullied by the Muslim brotherhood fanatic Erdogan. Now they have to let his 70 million or so more poor people in. What a mega-shambles. Let’s get out while the goings good. It’s a ball and chain. It just doesn’t make any sense. Home rule for the UK!

      • Jojje 3000

        The refugees are there even after Brexit, and the EU is actually not involved.

        • ObserverinMonmouth

          77m turks are not refugees. Next to be let into Europe will be 42m Ukrainians and then it will be Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia.

        • milford

          Oh well never mind. Home rule is still preferable than being ruled by a foreign elite. Vote Brexit!

        • LittleRedRidingHood

          Except the majority are not refugees…..and they can be returned

    • Foxall

      As was pointed out in another thread, Obama’s threat was the reverse of the truth. The USA would find it much easier and quicker to make a deal with one independent nation than it ever would with a bloc of 23 and counting diverse, bickering member states. Isn’t the USA still busy with negotiations with the EU that have dragged on for years?
      And on the subject of the USA, any flight from the US dollar would fling the whole pack of cards high in the air. Could happen any day soon.

    • Alex Lothian

      You must be a complete idiot if you think think, any country can afford not to trade with us. Most countries economies are already struggling more than us and can`t afford to lose trade no matter what.

      • Jojje 3000

        But Britain is barely out of a deeper recession, I think many countries has seen trade with the UK decline.

    • LittleRedRidingHood

      The eu is on the verge of collapse. It is safer to be out of it.

  • Ed Blake

    I always find it strange that those arguing that the risks of leaving are so great do not realise that this supports the Brexit view that the UK can readily stand on its own feet – if the UK is not so important why all the fuss?

  • Conway

    We explained that the flowers belonged to us and asked them politely not to do this. They seemed surprised, but politely apologised and left. Then I felt some remorse. The flowers were nice for the young children, I reflected, and why did it matter if we lost a few to them?” Console yourself with the thought that you might just have given them some idea that they can’t just help themselves to someone else’s property without so much as a by-your-leave.

  • Jojje 3000

    The world is simply not waiting to get a call from Boris suggesting negotiations about new FTAs, the UK will be more out in the cold than Brexiters think.

    • ObserverinMonmouth

      We don’t need an FTA to trade.

      • Jojje 3000

        Well, almost. There are no developed countries trading on WTO rules.

        • ObserverinMonmouth

          Well we have major trade with the USA in good and services without any trade agreement as far as I know. They are our single biggest country export market.

          • Jojje 3000

            Is’s called TEC, Transatlantic Economic Council, manage current EU-US trade.

          • ObserverinMonmouth

            The TEC was established by the USA and EU as a precursor to an FTA. As you probably know the proposed FTA is called the TTIP. I would amazed even shocked if the TTIP in isn’t present form happens this year. Hollande has already said no. Back to the main point; The UK was trading with the USA before the TEC was established. The fact is the USA is the single largest country for UK exports and those exports are based on bilateral relations between the UK and USA. They have nothing to do with the EU or the TEC of the TTIP although we do have inputs to those. If TTIP fails it will make no difference to our exports to the USA. So to return to your original comment above (2 days ago) Brexit will in fact make no difference to our exports to the USA and we will not out in the cold.

          • Jojje 3000

            TTIP will happen, the question is how dilluted it will eventually be.

          • ObserverinMonmouth

            Agreed one day the TTIP will happen, one day. Meanwhile we Europeans will continue to trade with the USA unaffected by the EU’s valiant efforts to fudge together some sort of protectionist agreement.

  • Richard Woollaston

    I’d recommend ‘Why Vote Leave’ by Daniel Hannan to anybody unsure of their position.

  • antoncheckout

    Martin Wolf is not the FT’s ‘best columnist’, merely the one one bangs on constantly about the perils of leaving his beloved EU – which is the FT’s unswervingly prejudiced propaganda position. Yet the interesting thing about the FT these days is that its anti-Brexit jeremiads, that used to be greeted with positive comments, are now overwhelmingly rebutted by the commenters, who point out their elementary logical flaws. The Wolf articles are a prime example.
    A similarly pro-EU FT-article by Bogdanor last week received overwhelmingly scornful replies, and threats to cancel reader subscriptions.

    • CRPC

      Agreed. I have no idea why the FT is so pro-EU. In all other aspects, its an intelligent newspaper.

      • John

        As the man said in the film – “Follow the money”.

  • Lawrence James.

    Moore’s pompous and petty-minded behaviour towards children picking flowers does much to explain why there was a revolution in France in 1789.

    • ObserverinMonmouth

      I think the parents were present and they were also picking flowers from his front garden. I think most people would find that impolite and unacceptable.

  • DearyMe

    “Put fear into the hearts of the unbelievers…” Now where have I heard that before?

  • ObserverinMonmouth

    What discussion?

  • Jacobi

    Things have certainly changed since 1975. Then the issue of immigration was there but as
    yet had not been noticed. Now it is staring us in the face and will be critical in the next ten years when all other issues, including the number of flowers in our sodden rain-soaked Springs will sink into abeyance. We must now see which way this immigration is going and deal with it.

    One aspect is how the very nature of our British character is changing before our eyes. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, to call those who object to this racist, is outrageous

    The other aspect is the now massive Islamisation of Europe which we are going to have to deal with, in whatever form it takes in the next ten years and that applies to European Christians and European Secularists alike.

    So, in or out?

    • Freddythreepwood

      ‘Then the issue of immigration was there but as
      yet had not been noticed.’

      I think one John Enoch Powell noticed.

  • tonyjakarta

    The capital city of a Christian country has a Moslem Lord Mayor, Islamisation of the UK continues apace.

    • grimm

      The capital city of a can’t-be-bovvered-wiv-religion-cos-it’s-too-boring country has a Moslem Lord Mayor. The people who believe in nothing but the feel good factor continue to absentmindedly hand over their country to a people with a fervent belief in the rightness of their cause. Be very afraid.

      • Dave Cockayne

        We believe in shoe shopping and package holidays.
        What is wrong with you? Hashtag #grimmisamoraninit?

    • ObserverinMonmouth

      I think thats a bit of an exageration but I understand the sentiment. Khan seems a genuine enough chap considering he is a politician. His his speech in Southwark was very inclusive. He will be judged by the company he keeps and what he achieves so lets wait an see. Some of his comments on the Labour party are bang on. So be prepared in a few years for not only Khan the mayor but possibly Khan the leader of the Labour party.

  • richard davis

    Please Watch this EU Debate

  • whorya

    Question for the remain in scare mongers?. When we leave will all the European companies who own our water, gas, and electric supplies. Also withdraw from these services, when the “Commission” orders them to?.
    NO! I thought not….But the thought of re-nationalizing them, without compensation gets me really excided. Trade is trade after all. They deny us, we deny them, access to 60,000,000 consumers
    They want the status que as much as we do.
    But observing the way the EU “Commission” operates. They will definitely have no “plan B” and will carry on their threats regardless. It is part of the European mind set. Vote out for freedom..

    • Central power

      Without electricity from France we are cooked.
      We could also nationalize our football clubs all owned by these nice “European” sheikhs or Americans.Our Premiership tickets are 2 – 3 times higher compared to Germany. German clubs are owned by fans or local companies (surely “fault” of Brussels) .After Brexit we could double these prices .Also we should nationalize the Mini plant and all other car factories. After all they are all foreign owned. We could repossess all foreign owned properties.Once we re-internationalize everything without compensation – we surely get sensational trade deals – with North Korea and Cayman Islands. The City will become the financial capital of the whole world minus Europe and the US but will include Iraq, Libya and Syria – the countries we have liberated (as ordered by Brussels) . We shall be trading in rubles and kopecks.
      You forgot to tell us that selling virtually all of our assets to foreigners is without doubt due to our membership in the EU.
      I am really excited by these fantastic prospects. Brexit the greatest idea since sliced bread.

      • NP1002 .

        The Cayman Islands are already British territory.

      • hereward

        Surely Gay Marriage is the greatest idea since sliced bread ?

  • marvin

    Will Germany stop importing North Sea Gas? Will Germany stop selling cars to the UK? Will the World stop turning? If everyone distanced themselves from these silly scare stories – it is so obvious that it is not only a better option for the UK, but it is imperative that we leave the EU! I have read every possible report for both Brexit and Remain, I have listened to every discussion for both scenarios – I can honestly, without hesitation say – that there is not one genuine good reason that has emerged as to why the UK is better with the EU. In fact many of the discussions focussed on staying in the EU – were fairly represented and put forward stronger arguments for coming OUT!

    • ObserverinMonmouth

      Well said.

  • Neal Hope

    Everyone should remember that what we joined was the Common Market, A trade group with the addition of open borders and loose set of rules for commonality of social and legal regulations. That is not what the EU is now and it is going to become even more restrictive very quickly. The process has already started to change our legal system. The European Arrest Warrant and before the end of 2016 a European Prosecutor, suposedly to tackle corruption in the EU but we have all seen how quickly these sorts of powers can expand. From the speaches and statements of several leaders and officials it is evident that it is planned to fix the Legal System along the lines of the Napoleonic Code, which means prosecutorial judges, a presumption of guilt and very few jury trials. The whole British Legal system would be swept away and we would lose the protections we have had for 500+ years. English Common Law, Magna Carta, Habeus Corpus, the Presumption of Innocence and Trial by Jury. The highest court would no longer be the Law Lords but some elected or appointed commitee in Brussels.
    Economically we will be taking some risks leaving the EU and we may be in for a few hard years until things balance out, however our political and military alliances will hold firm simply because they need UK more than the UK needs them.
    I have leaned both ways in how I should vote, remembering that I have always voted pro-Europe, but I have finally concluded that to safeguard our Social and Legal systems, the only choice is to vote LEAVE.

    • Old Nick


    • ObserverinMonmouth

      Well said

  • Alex Lothian

    Isn`t it strange that Scameron, has chosen the Muslim method of threats, to try and force people around to his way of thinking.

  • John

    Free Trade Agreements ; ah yes – yet another red herring pushed by the Remain campaign. Conveniently neglecting to mention that we DON’T NEED a FTA in order to trade. Any more than you need a long term purchase agreement with your newsagent in order to buy a paper.
    Mind how you go !

  • Pearl

    Apparently those who wish to leave the EU are either old or have low intelligence according to BBC Politics Today programme. And add financially challenged or just plain poor!

  • peter the painter

    there is also the advantage we have of being the fulcrum of the English speaking world. Not something the Germans have. Apparently we joined Europe at the expensive of our commonwealth connections.