Charles Moore has it right

I am a huge fan of Charles Moore of the Daily Telegraph and he has hit all the spots with me today in the following article:

What can David Cameron do? Have a referendum in this parliament

Prime Minister David Cameron should be ready to leave the EU if he does not get the reforms he wants

Our local Ukip candidate in this week’s council elections was the former head of a special school, a former science teacher and the founder and chairman of a long-standing horse rescue concern. He served in the Merchant Navy and in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

I did not vote for him on Thursday. When I heard him speak at a public meeting at the last general election, he said: “Most of you will remember the war.” In fact, you have to be almost 75 to achieve this, which makes you one of less than 10 per cent of the population. I felt he had not quite kept pace with the country that he clearly loves. Nevertheless, I mention his background to show how offensive it is for Conservatives like Kenneth Clarke to pillory such people. Whenever they do so, they are attacking their own natural base of support – patriotic people with strong local attachments, small-business experience and a record of public or charitable service.

I got home in time to vote in Sussex, where I supported our excellent sitting Tory councillor. I cannot honestly say, however, that I feel displeased by Ukip’s nationwide success. I had just returned from a visit to Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and there, for the first time, I noticed Ukip cutting into the Labour vote. In conversation with a youngish, local Labour, upper-working-class man, the name Ukip came up unprompted. He said that Labour regarded his part of the world as its own rotten borough. He felt nothing but contempt for the Liberal Democrats because of their broken promise about tuition fees. He wouldn’t dream of voting Tory. Ukip, he thought, sounded as if they were on his side. A quarter of those voting in the South Shields by-election seem to have thought the same.

You will read that Ukip support does not necessarily derive from Euroscepticism. In a sense, this is true. If you feel poorer, over-regulated, disturbed by gay marriage, culturally despised for being white and want to smoke in a pub and be served in imperial measures; if you feel threatened by uncontrolled immigration and irritated by welfare which helps what our local Ukip man calls “the greedy not the needy”, you will naturally gravitate towards a party that is complaining about all this. If you see David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as too sleek and too interchangeable, you will want to punish them all, regardless of your views on Europe.

But Europe is at the bottom of all this. Since we entered what was then called the EEC on January 1 1973, people have increasingly come to believe that they were lied to. The issue of sovereignty – so often dismissed as being “academic” – is, in fact, the ultimate issue in a democracy. We vote because we believe that, by voting, we are choosing who will govern us. By entering the EEC on the terms that the then Tory government accepted, our leaders undermined the reality of our power to choose. They transferred our sovereignty while claiming it would not be affected. Forty years on, we still hold elections. The winners retain the titles and the money that go with government; but they do not really govern us.

I can only add one local issue.

We have a recent incomer to my own village of Adderbury, Oxon.  He is Terry Davis who used to be the Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill and then disappeared off to become General Secretary of the Council of Europe.  I have tried and failed to discover what European taxpayers (including British taxpayers) pay for this role including what I am sure is a most generous pension.

Terry Davis seems to be masterminding Labour Party campaigning in Oxfordshire.  Of course, he is absolutely entitled to do this but I think the rest of us are entitled to remind the world that he derives his wealth from the public sector as described above and we are all enabling him to support his political activities in this way.  If any of this is incorrect, I would be happy to make a correction.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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