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Time to call out the Union of Media barons’ Lie Machines and their anti-democratic role in the EU referendum

Posted on 12 March 2016 | 4:03pm

This is a longer version of an article which appears in The Observer today, and a shorter version of a (draft) speech I am due to make next month on the nature of the media debate around the EU referendum. I do not read papers or listen to the broadcast media in the way I used to, but having been asked to do this speech, I have been reading more than usual for research purposes. And though I have long known there was something deeply rotten in the state of our press, the scale of the rottenness has been beyond shocking.

The Observer has published around 1200 words of this, but some of the real devil of the work being done by the OUT campaign and their media Lie Machines is in the detail, a lot of which had to be cut. So though I am still working on the speech, I thought I would post what I have done so far up here now, as I believe this is an issue that will begin to resonate as the campaign goes on. I have also had many TV and radio bids to talk about this issue, and would welcome the opportunity to debate it all with Paul Dacre or any of the other Lie Machine leaders. All the best, and remember: make your own minds up, and don’t believe a word you read about Europe in most of the papers. Here goes …

I am 58 years old, have worked in and around the media most of my adult life, on both sides of the press/politics fence; I have been both hunter and hunted, and know the game inside out. I thought I was no longer remotely shockable by anything that our wretched right-wing press could do.

But the coverage of the EU referendum so far, even by their standards of bias, deceit, misrepresentation, and lying, is taking them to fresh depths of dishonesty. In so many ways, it is as though Leveson never happened. Accuracy? Do me a favour; we have papers to sell, agendas to drive, scores to settle, personal interests to defend.

David Cameron has to take some responsibility for this. For his own political reasons – mainly the desire to see the papers hit Labour harder than they hit him in the 2010 and 2015 elections – he was dragged kicking and screaming into Leveson, and has failed to follow through on the Inquiry’s eminently sensible proposals for self-regulation, demonized and distorted as a vicious assault on press freedom by the same Union of right-wing, super-rich, partly foreign, largely tax-avoiding media barons driving the demonizing, distorting coverage of Europe now.

So part of me, the part that has seen Labour leaders get unfair treatment compared with their Tory counterparts for generations, looks at Cameron and thinks ‘you reap what you sow.’ But another part, the part that cares about Britain’s future long beyond the tenure of Cameron or any other individual Prime Minister, whether in office for one year or ten or twenty, feels this debate is far too important for Schadenfreude or party political tribalism. The result of the referendum is far more important than the outcome of a single general election. The historic significance is greater. The consequences – for jobs, living standards, culture, national security and our standing in the world – are greater.

I have written before about the strategic and tactical blunders that led Cameron into the referendum, and the situation he now finds himself in. But that too is all in the past; in the present, between now and June 23, we are confronted with this massive choice, and it is we the people, every one of us with a vote of equal weight, who will make it.

In those circumstances, we have a duty to inform ourselves, and both politicians and media have a duty, or at the least a role, to help in that process. The debate having so quickly become polarized among Tory politicians, with the focus having been as much on the personalities involved as on the issues, the role of the media is even more important.

However, more than in any such debate I can remember, large chunks of the press have totally given up on any commitment to that role of properly informing public debate. What little separation of news and comment may have existed before has now gone completely. The Mail, The Sun, The Express, and The Star in particular, to a lesser extent The Telegraph and on a bad day The Times, are more propaganda sheets for one side of the argument, than responsible contributors to a vital debate about the country’s future.

The Mail, whose evil (I use the word advisedly) cowardly and hypocritical editor Paul Dacre pockets vast EU grants on his vast Scottish estate, nonetheless allows barely a syllable in his paper that might reflect well on Europe, or anyone involved in the campaign to keep Britain in. Rupert Murdoch, through the worst of his ‘humbling’ (sic) appearances at Leveson and parliamentary committees, has refound his mojo in his business and private life and is now enjoying making sure every ounce of Sun ink is used to shape opinion in the direction he wants. Then the Barclays control the Telegraph from their Channel Island tax exile and Richard Desmond’s Express papers, amid scare stories about the weather and conspiracy theories about Princess Diana, feed a relentless diet of anti EU front page splashes as titillating and far-fetched as the stuff in the porn mags and films that helped create his fortune. By this bizarre collection of folk, or so they hope, ‘public opinion’ is formed.

Dacre has given up any pretence of being a journalist in the way most people understand the term. His staff have told the IN campaign not even to bother trying to place articles, stories or ideas, because they won’t get used unless they fit his OUT agenda. The Sun has dragged The Queen into the whole thing, taking something that was almost certainly never said, in a conversation that took place long before a referendum was even on the horizon, and the word ‘Brexit’ did not exist, to make a claim that she supported the OUT campaign. I had a fair bit to do with the Royals and the often crazy coverage of them in my time in Downing Street. Based on that experience, and her ability to shrug off without complaint so many false stories written about her, I can pretty much guarantee this – the fact the Palace has made a complaint to IPSO, the so-called independent press regulator, means the story is a load of cock.

It seems that Michael Gove and his rather odd collection of special advisors may be at the heart of the Queen story. But can you imagine the noise these right wing sceptic papers would be making if a pro-EU source had persuaded the Mirror or the Guardian to run a front page headline ‘QUEEN BACKS IN.’ We would never hear the end of it. Yet Gove has been given a free pass. (He was one of Murdoch’s guests at his wedding to Jerry Hall, an event sycophantically covered in the eurosceptic papers, The Express for example had a lovely front page smiling picture of the happy couple under a patsy headline alongside a splash claiming ‘Europe’ was going to be taking control of the British coastline. Boris Johnson has had similar free pass treatment; freed from collective responsibility by David Cameron to campaign for the OUT side, but keen to gag his own inner Cabinet from being anything other than an echo chamber. ‘It was a cock up,’ he says of the email that delivered this edict. ‘Oh that’s fine then,’ echo the Dacre/Murdoch/Barclay/Desmond Union against the Union.

Then there was the John Longworth saga. Some bloke most of us had never heard of, from the British Chamber of Commerce, makes a few sceptic noises (despite this being against the policy of the organization he leads) and is thereby elevated to instant hero by the Dacre/Murdoch/Barclay/Desmond papers. Anyone who takes another view is an idiot, a liar or a spiv, and anyone from the government who objects to what he said guilty of smears and dirty tricks.

Then Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, a somewhat more significant figure in the running of our economy than Longworth, makes a few blindingly obvious statements to MPs about the inevitable uncertainty Brexit would cause, and the need for business and the Bank to do some worst case scenario planning, and he is immediately denounced as being part of Project Fear. Worse, much of the broadcast media covers his Parliamentary committee appearance as being Carney under attack from the OUT campaign, rather than setting out in detail what this genuinely important voice in the debate had to say. (This is part of the game the Dacre/Murdoch axis has long played – try to bully the broadcasters into shaping a more sceptic agenda around their news coverage, not least by pretending the broadcasters are slavishly pro IN. Sadly, all too often, it works.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury is another senior establishment figure whose views have been put through the Dacre/Murdoch/Barclay/Desmond mangling machine. He made a long and thoughtful intervention. The press saw two main angles – the OUT side need to do more to explain what would happen if they won; and it is not racist to be concerned about immigration. The mangling machine largely ignored Point 1. Point 2 was spun to suggest he was basically a fully fledged OUTer who takes his spiritual guidance from Nigel Farage and George Galloway.

There were times in Downing Street when I felt parts of the media operated like a reverse Pravda. If a story fitted their agenda, it went in. If it didn’t it was spiked. It may have been hard for them to ignore Carney or the Archbishop, so they spun against them. But others who have come out in favour of IN – including the OECD, the IMF, Shell, BMW, Rolls Royce, Morgan Stanley, Vauxhall, UBS, Centrica, AA and many more – have been almost totally ignored. Had any one of them come out for OUT then front pages galore would have splashed it. There is literally no major employer calling for OUT, (apart from these papers) so their behaviour and tone is a symptom of their isolation which they want to hide from their readers. In addition to the invented stories, this is lying and misinformation by omission. Oh, and before any of you start bleating or tweeting ‘dodgy dossier’ the accusations against me of lying, deceit and misinformation in relation to Iraq have been thoroughly investigated by three inquiries (we await the fourth) and I have been cleared by all of them.

Now let me do something few of these right wing hacks who work for the Union of Lie Machines ever do and admit that I am biased. I am biased in favour of the UK staying in, partly because I have thought about it for longer than it takes to write yet another punning Sun headline or tweet that Boris should be PM ‘because he makes me laugh.’ But even if I take that bias into account, if I make a strategic analysis of the campaign so far, then the OUT team look like a rabble of kids running around a football pitch not quite sure where the ball has gone, while the IN team do at least seem to have a set of unified clear messages and a determination to get them across.

The IN team has forced everyone (including the OUTers) to accept there will be some kind of economic shock from leaving – but the media has barely followed up at all in questioning the cost of that to their readers and listeners. Likewise a combination of IN and broadcast media pushed Johnson into spluttering that we should do a deal with the EU like Canada’s. A proper media would have explored that further and quickly discovered plenty of stories revealing potential damage to our interests. Likewise Chris Grayling says we will get a new beneficial trade deal with India. Has anyone asked the Indians?

There is something comical about the way the OUT campaign and their media cheerleaders rage constantly about Project Fear, the label borrowed from the SNP in the Scottish referendum, to rebut anything that dares to suggest there might be a single reason to want to stay inside a Union that has helped deliver peace, prosperity and power to our country over most of my adult lifetime. Because their whole coverage, for years, has been based on scare stories, some with a Boris Johnson byline in the days when he used to write as much nonsense as today he spouts on his fantasy journey to becoming the next Winston Churchill.

In my time in Number 10, I can recall variously having to rebut stories from the right wing rags that bent bananas and cucumbers were going to be banned; the British Army was going to vanish; Cheddar cheese and Scotch whisky were going to have to be renamed; lollipop ladies were to be outlawed; we were going to have to drive on the right; Brussels was going to set all our tax levels; the British passport was to disappear; some Luxembourg or Belgian nonentity was going to replace the Queen.

In recent weeks, we have had plenty more of this, much of it peddled by Gove’s former sidekick Dominic Cummings. Perhaps most insidious, he and Nigel Farage both made the outrageous – and untrue – claim that those involved in the New Year sex attacks in Cologne would be free to come to the UK. (Well, they could if they had lived in Germany for eight years, had no criminal record, and renounced their own nationalities). We have also had the OUT campaign claiming we will have to have Arabic subtitles on our TVs. Sun readers have ‘learned’ that Christmas is going to be renamed ‘the Winter Festival’ by the EU. Several of the anti-EU axis managed to blame the floods a few months ago on ‘Brussels.’ Turkey’s desire to get in the EU has been ripe scaremongering territory. Clearly all Turks (Muslims don’t you know?) will move to Britain. Farage has managed to get some coverage for his false claim that Cameron’s negotiation means we will have an EU army in the UK, and the old (invented) EU Navy has had a few outings too. And I bet you didn’t know ‘Brussels’ was going to make you have more recycling bins, did you?

On and on and on they have gone, day after day, week after week, year after year, lie upon lie. It is a wonder there is a single Mail or Sun, Star or Express reader left who is anything other than a fully fledged OUTer.

And therein lies the opportunity for the IN side. People may be influenced at the margins by this incessant drumbeat against Britain’s membership of the EU. But the public have seen and heard enough about the press to know that their standards have fallen to base levels, that the word of many cannot be trusted, that they do not believe in giving two sides of a story, and that many of their stories are inventions.

David Cameron, who is not standing for a third term as PM, has nothing to lose from taking them head on, calling them out on the lies and the misrepresentations, making sure the public hear a message that their voices cannot remotely be trusted. The undecided are looking for two things above all – leadership and information. Cameron has to provide both.

The IN campaign more generally has to fill the gap that the public wants filled – the need for genuine information about the reality of Britain’s relations and what exit would mean. We need more of the kind of newsletter sent out by the IN campaign to 14million households a few weeks ago setting out basic information. The kind of basic information the Dacre-Murdoch axis does not want people to have.

Equally, the OUT side has to be put under much more pressure fully to explain what would happen if the country does vote to come out. If that were to happen, then on June 24 we will be waking up to confront a change way bigger than anything a change of government would represent. Yet where is the manifesto for what happens if OUT wins? Where are the detailed plans that public and media would expect from any government or party seeking to make a fundamental change to the way our country is run? They are not there. The media won’t force them out. The IN campaign has to do it.

IN is arguing for the status quo, and therefore has less to prove in terms of what happens afterwards. They should embrace the notion of Project Fear because frankly there is a lot to be afraid of, if we sleepwalk into this huge decision without actually having the informed debate we need.

In a real, healthy democracy with a vibrant free press, we would have that informed debate. But we do not have a vibrant free press. We have a press largely owned by a small group of men (at least one of whom doesn’t have a vote, several of whom don’t pay tax here) who believe their views and interests are more important than the tens of millions of people on whose behalf they claim to speak and whose views they claim to represent.

I am not a huge fan of David Cameron. But at least he is fighting for what he believes in, and at least he is telling the truth as he sees it. He is up against a collection of people and papers, Lie Machines, with a near total disregard of the truth in favour of propaganda that even Vladimir Putin might think was too one-sided to be credible.

The stakes are high for the country. But they are high for the media too. Because frankly if the country does vote to stay in it will expose Dacre and Murdoch and Co as impotent old men who can call the shots with all who work and write for them, but not with those who read what they write. That is going to be a very good day for democracy when it comes which, despite all of the above, I believe it will. Because in spite of decades of dumbing down, their readers are not as stupid as the media barons might imagine, thank God, and they are in the main more honest, decent and thoughtful too.



    Very good article about the British press. Especially evident these days with the EU referendum campaign.

  • Nick

    “I am not a huge fan of David Cameron. But at least he is fighting for
    what he believes in, and at least he is telling the truth as he sees it” – oh come off it, Alastair!

    The trouble with Cameron (apart from the fact that he has proved time and time again over the years that he apparently has no genuinely held principles or convictions at all, whether it’s forgetting which football team he pretends to support or telling Murdoch he’s a eurosceptic – according to Peter Hitchens) is that he declared he would lead the Leave campaign if he didn’t get what he wanted at the “renegotiations” charade. But now he tells us that the sky will fall in unless we vote Remain. Every day we are told another area of British life or business will implode unless we vote Remain – and yet none of these issues were even touched on by Cameron’s so-called “renegotiations”. If the implications really are so monumentally catastrophic for the UK, surely Cameron wouldn’t have wanted to risk any opportunity for the UK to vote Leave under any circumstances, let alone consider leading the Leave campaign?

    If the alternative to Remain is really so dire, why even risk holding
    a referendum at all? Why not simply argue the case for NOT holding a referendum and staying In, peppered with lots of “let me be absolutely clear” and “this is the right thing to do”…? Why even announce that he was ever prepared to lead the Leave campaign if the sky will really fall in as he so ludicrously claims…?

  • Ehtch

    Excellent article Ali, and thanks for posting it in advance – didn’t appear on the Observer’s page until 7.54pm. It took my mind off the rugger result, a game that that Joubert penalised us off the park in the first half, even though England apparently were doing exactly the same. But ah well, we thrashed them 3-1 in tries, that’ll do me as scraps. Burnley flying, top by seven points.

    As for the shameless lying right-wing press and these Tory drama queens, involving the Queen by using a “by the way” comment she might have made a few years ago, maybe as a leg pull dry wit thing, utterly pathetic. But they are allowed to get away with any gobshite they want to make up. Our economy is carrying out blue murder using and abusing our membership of the EU when in fact our economy is a total fragile weak set-up. Case in point is Hinkley Point C, where we are relying on the French to build the new nuclear reactor for us, with the help of China cash also. Don’t know what planet Gove and BJ and others are on, but it is not our one. Our economy will collapse if we leave the EU, and these little englanders seem unperturbed at that, let alone those idiots running our supposedly highbrow rags.

  • Adam Thomson

    Thank you, Mr Campbell, for this article. You exactly reflect what I have felt for a long time, and I am delighted you have put in your oar. This is SO important, as you say – and all I want is to know how best we can spread this message in the most effective way. If only Labour could get its act together sufficiently resoundly to beat the drum for IN – perhaps you can goose them a bit.

    Please expend every ounce (gram?) of your energy on getting this done.

    This is SO IMPORTANT. I wish I could do more to help (I’m a 77-yr-old OAP).

  • Brian Wyles

    A very thought provoking article. But totally misses the point that the EU
    Is not static and the most fundamental point of all that the structure of the EU is undemocratic. Whatever the press say we can all see which way the EU is heading and we have no right to give up future generations right to self determination. The EU has morphed from a trading bloc to its current overbearing state and it has not finished yet.
    Staying in the EU is absolutely not about keeping the status quo.
    Now that really does scare me.

  • Skellan

    So, Al, these weapons of mass destruction then, you say they are ready to use in just 45 minutes? That sounds scary. Is there any chance they could reach the UK at all? It sounds to me as if we need to go to war to stop this scary evil stuff. Can you arrange that – I’d be ever so grateful?

  • Henry Hooper

    The bias of the brexit newspaper pails into utter insignificance compared to the bias shown by these very same media (and the BBC) during the Scottish indyref campaign that you Mr Campbell wholeheartedly got behind and actively supported. You simply can’t complain now that the same methods are being used against your point of view now. If these tactics were acceptable then they are acceptable now….so stop beating about it. BTW I support bring
    IN Europe too

  • Gillian C.

    It wasn’t that long ago, maybe less than a year even, that the Telegraph was still pro this country being in or part of the EU. Then, quite suddenly they turned on a sixpence and along with the rest of the main newspapers they are now for us leaving the EU!

    The cynical part of me suspects there may be some reverse psychology going on here. By that I mean that generally speaking if people are told how they should vote by the distrusted msm, then the chances are that many people will do the opposite. But surely the msm wouldn’t risk game-playing with what will be an important decision.

    If the vote on the 23rd June 2016 is in favour of us leaving the EU, our country isn’t going to fall apart the very next day, or even in the months and years to come. After a leave vote a fairly long process of withdrawal would be set in motion.

    I am genuinely surprised that the ‘big’ newspapers are or appear to be in favour of us leaving. As are some of the Trade Unions too, which is also surprising to me.

  • Skellan

    So, Al, these weapons of mass destruction then, you say they are ready to use in just 45 minutes? That sounds scary. Is there any chance they could reach the UK at all? It sounds to me as if we need to go to war to stop this scary evil stuff. Can you arrange that – I’d be ever so grateful?

  • Dave Simons

    I wish I could believe what you say about ‘decades of dumbing down’, but I am constantly shocked when I see supposedly intelligent people not only reading ‘The Sun’, ‘The Mail’ and ‘The Express’ but parroting the opinions in them. I’m pessimistic about the Referendum. I don’t think there’s going to be a serious and intelligent debate in the too-short time between now and 23rd June. What I’m hearing all the time, in north and midland areas, is xenophobia. First and second generation immigrants say there are too many immigrants coming in. People who work temporarily abroad for more money- in Germany for instance – complain about East Europeans working over here for more money. There is no logic, no other-awareness – just myopic, self-centred, gut reaction. This is the ‘constituency’ to which the Dacres and Barclays cynically know they can appeal. This is what cunning old Boris is gambling on in his bid to become the UK’s Donald Trump. It’s frightening, and not a good time to be young.

  • Roman Vehovec

    Well, I could not help noticing that you said who is doing what, and how, but not who is really behind that propaganda

  • ZintinW4

    This is a very positive article. It’s position is clear yet I still have a few problems with the referendum.

    The referendum is based upon a deal achieved by Cameron that has little to do with the national interest and is more about trying to broker a peace with Eurosceptics in his own party. He is making a huge error in thinking that if people vote to remain it will resolve anything. His party will still be riven by divisions on Europe and, as with Scotland, there will be calls for another referendum at some point soon.

    Even allowing for the politics being suspect I have a bigger issue. I work a great deal in Europe with the Parliament and with the Commission. I am a supporter of the principles of ever closer union and of the UK not being semi-detached but being a voice for progressive change in Europe. All too often, from a business perspective, we are the progressive voice in the room that achieves a balance between over regulation and subsidiarity. Few other Member States have our pragmatism and many will miss our ability to broker a deal based upon common sense.

    So for me the deal that has been struck is entirely wrong. I want my country to be a driving force for positive change, not a wall flower at the party who is there because there is nowhere else to go and who is ignored by all the other suitors. I don’t want to be dressed in clothes that are out of date, sing tunes that nobody dances to. I want to be the life and soul of the party.

    Cameron is selling us a deal which is insulting. Are we really so afraid of our ability to shale agendas that we need all these get out clauses? Is this the kind of partner we want to be? It’s not the one I want my nation to become.

    Finally, and this is a point that the in campaign has to address, there are risks in remaining. These shouldn’t be glossed over. Already we see the discussion around Turkey’s ascension into the Union. Do we want them in? What are the consequences? If the in campaign doesn’t address this kind of point head on we will lose to the xenophobic outer a because fear is always easier to whip up than it is to allay.

    The terms of the debate need to be framed differently. Cameron has not delivered anything other than a sop for his own party. We shouldn’t get into be with him but instead build a better, more positive articulation of how we can be part of Europe in a real sense and not apologist for a failed Tory compromise.

  • Aethelbald

    Wow. Good stuff but any solution has to be long-term. We need to teach slant, rhetoric and deconstruction in schools and there is surely an apolitical way to do this. Every literate person should be able to construct and/or destroy a strawman, and repudiate an ad-hominem, for example. Maybe you could help?

  • Max Atkinson

    Best piece I’ve read on the issues. Dead right about Murdoch media, Gove etc. Just hope your conclusion is right too!

  • David pomfret

    The Express/Mail/Sun are exactly the same as Goebbels propaganda machine was in the third Reich. A constant stream of lies and propaganda to suit the interests of the proprietors. By the way, I don’t count the daily star, a borderline porn mag with a bit of bnp bile added does not constitute a newspaper

  • Gareth Evans

    A good read that I have already suffered one of Chris Grayling’s “Indian Deals” my skilled engineering job I used to lay the fibre optic cables on the sea bed for telecommunications, was offshored following the now depressingly familiar route – new CEO- new target- “we must cut costs”- redundancies -training ppl from the 3rd world- got undercut by new companies from 3rd world -CEO “retires a millionaire- me and my shipmates on the dole.

    anyone who thinks that Immigration or Europe is more of a threat to Britain than the evisceration of the British skilled workforce by our own home grown is in cloud cuckoo land, the endless gifting of large parts of the things my grandparents fought for to a small cabal of rich and powerful men terrifies me.

    as does a future where my work pension is predicting £500 a year – YES I do say a year- to live on I am reminded of Cicero who said this 2000 years ago

    never more true

  • Misotonic

    Great, but as a strong advocate of continuing membership of the EU for Britain, I have been immensely frustrated over the years that no-one EVER promotes the positive aspects of the EU for Britain and its people. This definitely includes the time that you were in a position to influence the Labour government in their strategy in this area. I always feel that governments of both colours have used the EU as a whipping boy whenever it has suited them without feeling any need to balance the effect of this on the general public.

    So now that we need the public to be enthusiastic about the EU there is no gas in the tank, and the Leave campaign is starting from pretty much level pegging as a result. And the Remain camp are making a rubbish job of giving people any positive reasons to stay, or communicating any passion behind their message. Let’s face it, David Cameron is rubbish at being a passionate politician, whatever other strengths he may (or may not) possess.

    I thought that Tony Blair did the best job so far of this on the Today programme at the end of last week, and called out the Remain camp on their lack of inspiration, but no-one (tragically, but literally) takes him seriously any more…

    • Lee Moore

      There are NO positives for staying in, that’s why you cannot find any and why nobody says anything different.
      Have you ever heard anyone being enthusiastic about the EU, let alone being enthusiastic about staying in?
      The EU is a dead duck, finished, useless and collapsing, I bet you would buy a ticket to board the Titanic if it were available, well good luck with that one,l as the EU is definitely a sinking ship!

  • georgewoodhouse

    Dear Alastair,

    I have to agree with many of your comments about the unsatisfactory nature of the printed press. But I think you underestimate the ability of most people to take this into account and not take what they say at face value. I still regularly take a newspaper but mainly for the crossword and general information, but never for its political stance on anything. I am neither Tory nor Labour – nor anything else for that matter. And I am just as concerned about lies and distortions coming from many of our politicians as I am about the press – in fact more so as I have always expected the press to have it’s bias and to bend the truth – not so with politicians until more recent years.

    In fact I have a sneaky admiration for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who, so far, seem to be open and more honest than most – although maybe a bit naive.

    Your article is of course mostly about our lying cheating press. But I note you link it firmly to the “OUT” campaign and you also impugn some of those who are the at forefront of the brexit campaign. But, although you state your belief that we should remain in the EU, you do not put forward any persuasive arguments as to what your belief is based on.

    Mostly, the “REMAIN” campaign, seems to rely on the fact that it would be a shock to us financially – which may or may not be true. But to ignore all other aspects, such as democracy, barriers to trade, regulation of the minutiae of our lives, and our sense of self belief, belittles us by implying that the state of our finances is all that matters. We have had many financial shocks over the years but we have recovered and become stronger again. Even more importantly, there is no reason to believe any such thing will happen. The uncertainty caused by holding a referendum may cause short term problems, but a vote to leave is just as likely to give us a financial boost.

    I am not a “little Englander” nor am I particularly concerned about immigration, although I do think it should be controlled better for everyones’ sake. But I do care about having a say in who makes decisions about how our country is run.

    I was in business for most of my working life until I retired a few years ago. For the years from 1977 until 2007 I ran my own manufacturing business and welcomed the advantages that being in the Common Market could give me as a manufacturer and exporter. It felt like a warm blanket protecting us from a loneliness of being on the “outside”. I was a strong supporter of the EEC as it was then. Later when the Euro was proposed I even felt that it would be an advantage for us because it would protect much of my business from the vagaries of exchange rate fluctuations.

    But I was surprised and disappointed to discover that the whole project was not what I expected. A couple of examples. The first incident to point me in another direction was a visit in the early 1990s from the local council to inform me that under EEC regulations my factory now had to be inspected every year – at a cost to me of around £1000 (by someone who clearly had no idea now factories worked), and that we even had to consult them before any of our plant and machinery could be re-positioned in the factory.

    The next crazy issue arose when we converted our factory heating system from oil, to burning our waste product of wood shavings and saw dust. We were producing about 8 tons per week which had been going to landfill. However under EEC regulations we were now burning a waste product, so it was frowned upon and we had to take 4 measurements every hour of the smoke/fumes output from the wood burner, and keep records for the inspector to check from time to time.

    I wont bore you with any more. But these and other restrictions on our operation convinced me that decisions were being made by unaccountable people who were far too distant from what goes on in the real world. I did try writing to my MEP, and discovered that I had seven of them. Only two of them bothered to reply (both UKIP as it happens) who said they were powerless to help.

    And the reality is that trade did not get any easier for us within the EEC/EU – in fact our membership made little difference. We sold our products across the world – N & S America, all over Europe (both inside and outside the EEC/EU), S Africa, Middle East, China, Japan Australasia. The only real (albeit relatively minor) barrier to trade was language. Somewhat paradoxically, this meant that despite everything that the EEC/EU promised, the most difficult countries in which to trade were Germany and France. I am not complaining about that – I did lots of business there by employing people who could speak the language. But I found different language – or a refusal to discuss business unless you spoke their language – to be the biggest barrier of all.

    I would urge you to listen to Dan Hannan’s thoughts on the EU. I don’t think he has an ulterior motive in claiming we should leave. He quietly and reasonably quotes substantial ideas about the position of the UK both inside and outside the EU and I cannot say that about any other politician on ether side of the argument.

    Sorry to go on at such length – but I have thought this through over many years and have come to my conclusion carefully. I shall be voting to leave unless I hear some very convincing arguments to stay – which on the basis of the “debate” so far seems unlikely.

    Good luck! I hope you are enjoying life post politics! Football was always a better option.

  • Kevin Leonard

    The main trouble Cameron has got is that he has told so many blatant lies such as over the NHS that despite the right wing rags bias people will be hard pressed to believe that Cameron is now telling the truth.
    Indeed the whole stinking mess on both sides of the argument will very soon turn the electorate away from participating regardless of consequences.

  • _Gareth_

    If only the EU had regulations governing how bent dossiers can be.

    “In my time in Number 10, I can recall variously having to rebut stories from the right wing rags that bent bananas and cucumbers were going to be banned”

    Were you lying then or now?

    From the EU themselves in 2009: The return of the bendy cucumber

    “European Union rules governing the size and shape of many fruit and vegetables will cease to exist tomorrow when specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables are repealed. The Commission’s initiative to get rid of these standards is a major element in its ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify EU rules and cut red tape. For 10 types of fruit and vegetables, including apples, strawberries and tomatoes, marketing standards will remain in place. But even for these 10, Member States could for the first time allow shops to sell products that don’t respect the standards, as long as they are labelled to distinguish them from ‘extra’, ‘class I’ and ‘class II’ fruit. In other words, the new rules will allow national authorities to permit the sale of all fruit and vegetables, regardless of their size and shape.”

    Marketing standards are intrinsically linked to what can and can’t be sold. That change in 2009 was some recognition that useful marketing standards between supplier and retailer should not necessarily have to be applied to the trade between retailer and the public. The bent cucumber can only return if it first went away.

    If you want to know who is to blame for the sorry state of the news comics you could hardly do better than starting with the man in the mirror. We were so well informed about things like New Labour’s immigration policies, On The Run letters and the reasons for going into Iraq weren’t we.

    The state of the EU referendum campaign on both sides is shocking. Neither side has had much to say that is both credible and positive. I don’t get any sense that Leave or Remain have come up with messages that would change anyone’s mind on the matter. Are they just chasing the undecideds? If so they may have over-estimated how many there are through people hiding their preferences from pollsters by saying ‘don’t know’.

  • Stephen Deen

    As propaganda goes, it’s a good article.

    But as a purveyor of spin, half-truths and obfuscation yourself, are you in a position to comment on what Mr Cameron believes in? As far as I can see, Mr Cameron only believes in getting re-elected.

    As for him telling the truth “as he sees it”; some may “see it” differently.

    I hold the view that the elite don’t see the revolution coming, until it’s too late. As Mr Trump and Mr Sanders can attest.

    Mr Cameron promised a referendum because he feared what Nigel Farage might achieve. That’s politics for you – and now he’s lumbered with the outcome.

    As a swivel-eyed closet racist myself, I put it to you that what we are now witnessing is democracy in action. I suspect that’s a strange notion for you to comprehend, as a graduate of the “predict the outcome” school.

    Maybe we need a referendum on whether the unwashed are allowed to vote.

    The people have spoken, the b******s!!

  • gunnerbear

    Or it may be the case that since the government the author of the blog worked for threw open the doors to all and sundry and flooded the UK with the worlds unemployed and unemployable…..the papers are reflecting what their readers are telling them….. …after all the Indie is going belly-up…and the Guardian is losing cash hand over fist. It may not be a message the most esteemed author of the blog likes but newspapers like the Sun are selling what the people want to read. If they weren’t they’d be like the Guardian – a company that also isn’t above very, very careful tax planning, “….with a near total disregard of the truth in favour of propaganda…”Hellfire – the author of this blog must have balls of brass and nerves of steel, if he is seriously accusing others of something he was a master at when working for HMG. i wonder why the most esteemed author of the blog is still so touchy about the ‘dodgy dossier’, after all, it was only a mistake…. …wasn’t it? I mean surely no-one would fail to take the most esteemed author of this blog at anything other than his word?

  • Holmeboy

    Good article, and so true, what worries me about Brexit, is that the forces and vested interests of Murdoch etc will be emboldened and more entrenched then ever.

    This whole referendum really is a choice between crap and crapper! The issue with Turkey is no so much the Turks themselves, tho undoubtedly millions of them will migrate westwards as the Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles etc have done before them, but the security nightmare of having a long porous and vulnerable border stretching across the Middle East, which would lead to a never ending migrant crisis. Also, with Erdogan’s Turkey in Europe, we would be looking at having a country in Europe that is increasingly authoritarian and anti democratic which is concerning, as it undermines European standards and values, this is likely to cause a lot of people to hesitate before putting ‘x’ in the remain box.

  • gunnerbear

    Ahh….AC…you probably probably won’t like it (nor allow this) but look at the comments on the Labour List website – and that isn’t pro-Corbyn by any means in relation to immigration….. Unless Labour get a grip of their policy on immigration, they will struggle to be in power again….especially if Scotland votes to leave the UK if the UK vote to leave the EU…

  • Nick

    “if the country does vote to stay in it will expose Dacre and Murdoch and Co as impotent old men”

    – Murdoch – impotent…??

  • reaguns

    “The Mail, whose evil (I use the word advisedly) cowardly and hypocritical editor Paul Dacre pockets vast EU grants on his vast Scottish estate.”

    I am confused… Alastair you want Paul Dacre to continue pocketing the vast EU grants? But he doesn’t? I know I don’t.

  • reaguns

    “This is part of the game the Dacre/Murdoch axis has long played – try to bully the broadcasters into shaping a more sceptic agenda around their news coverage, not least by pretending the broadcasters are slavishly pro IN. Sadly, all too often, it works.”

    For me to be sympathetic to this line of reasoning, I will need to see one, just ONE, case on Newsnight where the anti-EU fellow in the debate is introduced as “Eurosceptic” (often accompanied by “right wing” or “on the tory right”) as they almost always are, but then the pro-EU fellow is introduced as “Europhile” which I have NEVER seen.

    You see, if a guy turned up at newsnight with a monkey sitting on his head, it would be quite reasonable to comment on the fact he had a monkey on his head, and there would be no need to state the other member of the debate had no monkey on his head. Nor indeed that the presenter himself had no monkey on his head. This is how the BBC and its presenters see the EU debate. To be a eurosceptic is to be as unusual as a man with a monkey on his head, whereas the normal, sensible view to take is a europhile one.

  • reaguns

    “Shell, BMW, Rolls Royce, Morgan Stanley, Vauxhall, UBS, Centrica, AA”

    All of those companies, as well as being pro-EU, are also anti-minimum wage, anti-tax, and, let’s be honest, anti-Labour. Are you sure you want us to start listening to them Alastair? Be careful, the masses may not do so as selectively as you.

    The masses know that whilst they may think it easier, or at least less risky, to do business within the EU, a greater reason is that they know open borders with the EU (which soon will mean open borders with not only Poland, Hungary, Romania and co but with Turkey and practically Syria and North Africa too) also means open access to low wage workers. Workers who can come here and work for Rolls Royce, Volkswagen and all the rest of them, for lower wages than Brits would. Which is the whole reason why TRUE labourites, ie OLD labour, were anti EU.

    I will say one thing. At least Alastair has always been openly and honestly a Europhile. Which is a lot better than the snivelling Corbyn, who pretended to be anti-EU to boost his standing with the party’e left and affect to be a Bennite. But now his conduct has Benn turning in his grave. Benn talked of how he admired conviction politicians like himself and Thatcher. No doubt Corbyn once would have said he agreed with that, as opposed to pragmatists like Blair. Yet one whiff of power was all it took to transform Corbyn from eurosceptic to europhile. And Cameron gets abuse for HIS flip-flopping?! Boris Johnson gets abuse for doing things for personal tactical benefit rather than political conviction?! Both true, but hit Corbyn with the same charge please! All you supposed right wing media folks out there, all of whom have been silent on this! (I challenge anyone to provide a link to any article disproving this point.)

  • reaguns

    “The IN campaign more generally has to fill the gap that the public wants filled – the need for genuine information about the reality of Britain’s relations and what exit would mean. We need more of the kind of newsletter sent out by the IN campaign to 14million households a few weeks ago setting out basic information. The kind of basic information the Dacre-Murdoch axis does not want people to have.”

    Wrong. But I dare them to do so. Take the “percentage of our laws made in the EU” claim. Farage, as far as I can remember, said it was about 86%, Clegg said it was about 14%. Europhiles will think “Ah we can print the facts about this… in reality it is probably bout 50%”. Problem – even if it was 14%, your starting offer, that would make me vote to leave. Or 1%! The EU, the Germans, the French, the Belgians, should make 0% of our laws! We could be in a trade union with them without changing any laws.

    And I don’t think IN want the facts to get out there about the percentage of jobs dependent on being in the EU… they might start asking how many of the 3 million would not simply carry on as before. They might as how Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA manage.