UKIP is a political guerrilla army and one thing a guerrilla army must avoid at all costs is set piece battles. A referendum is a set piece battle, and yet many in UKIP seem hell bent on plunging in to one. The Charge of the Light Brigade was a gutsy and courageous campaign but they lost. I am not interested in losing graciously or gloriously. I want to win, and a referendum is something we run a perilous risk of losing.
For starters, an in or out referendum is over simplistic. There is lots wrong with Britain, membership of the EU being among a list of problems, from declining standards and discipline in schools, to soft sentencing of criminals to name a few. If we get out of the EU, but nothing is done about these other issues, then we are still in trouble. If we leave the LibLabCon in charge of a post-referendum withdrawn Britain, do we really believe they would address these other problems? Would a Cameron or a Miliband say “Now we are out of the EU, we have the legal ability to solve these other problems”? Or would they carry on as usual because they don’t consider these things to be problems in the first place?
Norway and Switzerland’s political elites long to be members of the EU. As the Norwegian Foreign Minister told MEPs last year, he would love Norway to join the EU, but the people of Norway won’t let his politician colleagues take them in. So if you can’t join the EU, you do the next best thing – you govern your country as if it was in the EU anyway. Don’t let the fact Swiss voters can have referendums on where you can build a Tesco fool you. Norway and Switzerland frequently run their country as if it was part of the EU in policy terms, and vocally align themselves with the EU in international forums. If a Cameron, a Miliband or a Clegg ran a post-referendum withdrawn Britain, they would do the same. We would still have open borders, still give criminals the vote, still heavily fund quangos and still embrace climate alarmism. Being a de facto EU member would be just as intolerable as a de jure member.
The logic that UKIP should push the LibLabCon into holding a referendum is Old UKIP thinking. This was the Old UKIP that had low horizons, no realistic expectation of first past the post victories and rarely made it into even local media coverage. This Old UKIP is long gone. The modern UKIP can and does win national level elections. The modern UKIP can and does dominate media coverage. The modern UKIP can and does pack council chambers with elected officials and is the largest British party in the European Parliament. The modern UKIP will stroll to multiple MPs at Westminster in less than a year. The modern UKIP is capable of a lot more than simply yelling from the fringes at the LibLabCon, hoping we could yell loud enough for a referendum.
The last two referendums held in Britain, the AV voting system vote and the Scottish independence vote, ended in victories for the status quo. Alex Salmond had every reason to believe he could win an independence referendum. His party had doubled its representation in Brussels and was in government in Scotland. Added to the anniversary of Bannock Burn and the hosting of the Commonwealth Games, Salmond had every reason to believe he could win. But he still lost. There is every chance that the SNP will decline now that their signature issue suffered defeat in a set-piece referendum battle.
UKIP runs that risk. At a time of euphoric success for UKIP, I hate being the still small voice of caution. But if UKIP holds an in-out referendum, we would underestimate the financial, media and organisational power of the “in” camp at our peril. If we lost that referendum, we would have lost our signature issue. People would see no point in voting UKIP anymore, and UKIP might tear itself apart with recriminations about who was responsible for the referendum defeat. If UKIP did that and declined, the establishment would be home clear for a generation. I shudder to think what another generation of unchallenged LibLabCon rule would look like.
So what do I propose instead of a referendum? Simple. We win enough MPs to form a government then take us out through parliamentary vote. No need to worry about the wording of referendum questions. No need to worry about “in” camp propaganda lies. Just UKIP MPs in the Mother of Parliaments voting to restore our independence.
Furthermore, once we are out of the EU, those UKIP MPs will still be there. Unlike the Swiss and Norwegian politicians who long so much for their country to be in the EU they run it as if it was anyway, those UKIP MPs will still be there after they vote to take us out. They can then continue a cultural change in policy making. A shift that would say no votes for rapists. A shift that would give bright children from poor backgrounds grammar school access. A shift that would deport radical hate preachers. Just one term of a UKIP government would reverse decades of damage. But you form governments by winning first past the post elections, not by winning one off referendums on single issues.
UKIP has never been more successful, and the polls, media coverage and elected official count have never been more satisfying. Yet we risk losing it all if on our signature issue we are drawn in to a referendum campaign we run a risk of losing.
Photo by European Parliament