Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
than an hour before I began this piece, our Prime Minister announced
that an EU referendum will be held on June 23rd. Woe betide us all.
From here onwards expect a tidal wave of analysis, gales of hot air
and a hail of speculation.
do I think will happen? No idea. But then there are so many things
that I don't know. I wasn't brought up in a political family. Nobody
in our family was ever wholly left or right, any more than the
answers to pertinent questions were ever black or white. My father,
for instance, a Telegraph-reading
soldier was strongly
As a junior officer in India he'd had to be present at one or two
hangings, a thing apparently which puts you off capital punishment.
That he was also anti-war seemed another curious anomaly but then
you won't find many people more anti-war than those soldiers who've
heard the sound of recently-.orphaned children crying. My father
disliked Heath and Wilson equally and oddly enough, had even been
known, occasionally, to vote Liberal. My mother, a Mirror
reader, liked 'that nice Mr Wilson'. She was one of the kindest
humans I've ever known and yet, when it came to certain sorts of
crime was something of a hanger and flogger. And "Yes.",
was her answer to my incredulous dad, when he asked whether she
herself would ever be prepared to pull the lever.
for the Common Market, The Six, as we then called the EU, neither
ever discussed the matter. Nor did they discuss Mr Heath, who
eventually barged us into it. My grandfather, a bus driver and Daily
reader was a free-beer-for-the-workers type, who, apart from Mr
Churchill, didn't think much of any politicians. He did once comment
that our proposed union with Europe was "a ruddy great con".
He was straightforward like that. I have little idea what anyone
else in the family thought about salient political topics of the day,
because the maxim was,"Never talk politics or religion outside
of the family." A funny thing, that, because the subjects rarely
cropped up inside the family either.
I have since learned about politics is that the discussion of the
subject can make many people angry, a thing which, perversely, some
seem to relish. The old right-left template of political thought,
however, when superimposed upon a vastly-changed modern map, now
seems both anachronistic and inadequate. The Right often appear
harsh, greedy and uncaring, whereas the Left appear controlling,
sour, puritanical and humourless.
interesting about the In-Out referendum is that both Right and Left
will now be subjected, internally, to the sort of political torsion
which usually only occurs if we're on the brink of a major war. This
referendum is going to make for some strange bedfellows. That, at
least, may bring us all a bit of relief from the tedium of the
ensuing polemic and propagandising which we expect between now and
June. The EU Referendum is going to seriously ruck the bedclothes up
for everybody and yet, like boys in a schoolyard upon hearing the
cry, "Bundle!" some of us will enjoy it.
let's take a quick glance at the long relationship between Essex and
Europe. For it was Essex, the port of Harwich in particular, which
was for many centuries England's main gateway to northern Europe.
When Pepys, Johnson, Lennon, and many other great Englishmen (myself
included) left this country to do something vaguely important abroad,
it was usually from Harwich. It was Harwich and Dovercourt, which in
1939 welcomed the refugees of Nicholas Winton's Kindertransport.
Without Harwich, we couldn't have successfully held four naval wars
with the Dutch. It was also Harwich which played conduit to
successive waves of Flemish weavers during the 16th and 17th
centuries, thereby reviving Colchester's ailing cloth trade. Essex
and Europe go back a long way. We've been fighting them, trading with
them, marrying each other and generally beihaving badly together long
before Mr Heath, tangled us all up in red tape back in 1973. Did any
of us actually vote to go into the Common Market? I seem to remember
not, although there was an eventual referendum in 1975, as to whether
or not we wished to stay. Most of us didn't bother voting.
the view from north-east Essex? Well here 's what I've observed,
after which I promise to shut up about it until at least June 24th.
EU is a bureaucracy, a massive one. Once a month, the whole shebang
uproots and commutes between Brussels and Strasbourg -- sometimes,
Luxembourg. It costs a phenomenal amount of money. It might be okay
if they only met twice a year for a working lunch in a big canteen in
Brussels,and then all paid their own way. But they don't. We all pay.
The bigger a bureacracy becomes, the more self-serving, unwieldy and
ruinously expensive it is. Will our leaving the EU affect trade?
Only if we and our European neighbours allow it to. What about
defence and general security? Well, call me naive but it all seemed
to work quite well before1973, didn't it? I think that many of us
have been looking down the wrong end of the telescope. We don't have
to stop the trading, the security-sharing, or the friendship --
because they are our friends, aren't they? We need to dump the
bureaucracy, that's all. And we need to do it as soon as possible.