Friday, November 19, 2004

A think-free zone

In this week’s edition of Eurofacts, Alex Hickman, the self-styled Lord High Chief Executive (there’s glory for you) of the self-appointed "Vote No" campaign, gives us the benefit of what he laughingly calls the "strategic thinking" behind the (if you please) No campaign.

Fresh from his slap-up meal with his leftie chums, not least Graham Copp who, when he is not wining and dining at the Savoy, seems to enjoy dressing up as his role model, Fidel Castro, Hickman, has the nerve to tell us that, for now, "we must focus on the task at hand, building a nation-wide, cross-party coalition that is able to turn out the largest possible No vote".

This is from the man who clearly believes that the way to form a coalition is to mount the highly divisive "Yes to Europe – No to the Constitution" slogan, which really demonstrates how vacuous is what passes for "thinking" amongst the claque of grey men (and their teenage scribblers) who presume to be the brains behind the anti-constitution movement.

The central theme of these geniuses, it seems, is that we must capture the "middle ground", that is the middle ground between "yes" and "no", which must be why they have come up with the stunningly original concept of voting "yes-no". Not for them is the simple thought that, between "yes" and "no", there is actually no middle ground. You are either in favour of the constitution, or you are not.

Neither does it appear to have dawned on them, during their breaks from lunches with their ad agencies, that public opinion is much firmer than they would give credit for, and anti-EU sentiment is now the predominant ethos throughout the UK. Only the chattering classes and the Islington set even begin to believe that there is any merit in that tired old remnant from history that is the European Union.

But where our mindless "yes-nos" really fall apart is in Hickman’s pedestrian if accurate analysis of the forces ranged against the "no" campaign. The government, he writes, will have "substantial advantages", not least its ability to spend taxpayers’ money and use the full machinery of government.

If he had stopped to think for one second as he wrote his analysis, however, Hickman might have realised that, to counter these "substantial advantages", we need a well-founded grass-roots campaign.

We need thousands of foot-soldiers, the "unsung heroes", who go out in all weathers delivering leaflets, who write letters to local newspapers, attend and address meetings in draughty village halls – and the occasional pub. We need people to stuff envelopes, make phone calls, to put up posters, to put stickers in their cars and in the windows of their homes, to demonstrate, remonstrate, to collect money and to make a noise about the most important issue on the political agenda.

And it is precisely those people, the people who are committed, principled activists, who will take one look at "Vote No" and its dissembling "Yes to Europe" mantra, and walk the other way. If he had thought about it, Hickman would have seen this but, as he so ably demonstrates in his Eurofacts piece, thinking is not his strong suit.

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