Some of us may have read Peter Oborne’s article in the Daily Telegraph 10 days ago in which he asserted that withdrawal from the EU is now mainstream Conservative opinion. Ministerial statements by the Home Secretary, Defence Secretary indicate this shift and Michael Gove the Education Secretary has declared that he would vote for withdrawal if a referendum gave this as an option. It is said that half of Conservative cabinet members would do likewise.
Yet we are very far from being offered such a choice. Whilst the Scots are permitted a referendum on who governs them no such choice is to be offered to us on the EU. But the fact that this is being ventilated at all is a testament to the success of our cause. It is not grounded on frustrations of dealing with Brussels imposed regulations or on nice calculations of the damage that an enlarging UKIP vote will do to the Conservatives in the 2014 Euro poll. It is because the majority of voters and a mounting proportion of Conservative MPs have now moved fundamentally in sentiment. UKIP can justly claim that it has made the case for withdrawal unanswerable save for those whose opinion is ruled by perceptions of private advantage.
But we must not delude ourselves that a Conservative-led government will allow such a referendum. Cameron will seek to buy off the discontented with a referendum on a new basis for our relations with other EU member states even though there is no hope of this being brought about. Nor is the Conservative party anything but an image of the present political careerist establishment. We have politicians but no statesmen. What is needed is a vision of what our country stands for and to which its people can aspire. Above all, it falls on those charged with the affairs of state to confront our grave and urgent needs with truthfulness and courage free from all temporising.
What are these needs? May I offer the following. Our grotesque indebtedness – incurred so wantonly but increasing daily. The crushing effect of taxation on enterprise and the poor. The abuse of children by forcing parents who cannot afford to pay for schooling to commit them to schools that fail them utterly. The appalling imbalance between bureaucracy and patient choice and care in health provision. The hopelessness of those entrapped in a welfare system that penalises those who work.
These are not to be addressed by more State spending even if such were possible without national bankruptcy. These are challenges demanding truly libertarian thinking – a way forward that is determined by what tends to the freedom and capacity of all to fashion their lives, that may instil a hope and then a conviction that life’s chances are for all, which leaves the State to do only what the State alone can do and which holds as an immutable truth that the well-being and dignity of us all requires that we choose who is to govern us.