The Death of the Political Establishment

19/05/2016 11:31 | Updated 19 May 2016

David Cameron, George Osborne, and all the other figures who have predicted war and disaster if we vote to leave the EU have done a great disservice to the institution of government. They have embarked on a zealot's crusade to browbeat the British public into staying in an undemocratic political and economic union regardless of what we want. This is paternalistic 'we know better' government at its very worst - the kind that took us into the Iraq War and almost had us join the Euro. I don't think Cameron & Co. ever expected to face the prospect of losing the vote, and felt free to make all sorts of dire predictions, but in doing so, they have redefined our relationship with the political establishment.

If we leave the EU, one thing is certain; none of their dire predictions will come true. Trade is the preserve of businesses, not politicians, and trade will continue whether we're in or out of the EU. David Cameron's claim that there will be war is so absurd that it doesn't even merit a response. When we see them prepared to do and say almost anything to get their own way, how can we ever trust our political class ever again? If they are willing to engage in such dishonest hyperbole on this important issue, then how do we know we can trust them to tell us the truth about anything?

The EU referendum will mark a turning point in the history of politics. If we vote to leave, it will be akin to a revolution. The British people will have rebelled against their lords and masters. Think about the organisations ranged on the Remain side: the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives, the Bank of England, most unions, many big businesses, a number of charities, universities... the list is endless. If we vote to leave, it will be the first time in modern British history that the people have risen up against the ruling class and said, "you don't know better, we do."

If natural rebels like Jeremy Corbyn (who has campaigned against the EU for decades, but was somehow suddenly convinced of its merits) had stood with the British people, the harm to the political establishment might not have been so severe. With some mainstream political support, the feeling of 'them vs. us' would not have been so pronounced. As it is, apart from a few rebel Tory and Labour MPs and MEPs, and UKIP, the leave campaign has been a grassroots phenomenon, standing against the establishment, largely abandoned by the institutions that are supposed to act in the British people's interests.

It has taken decades of campaigning to win the right to this referendum. Effecting political change shouldn't be this difficult and whether we vote to leave or remain, we should never be in this position again. Politicians, unions, the Bank of England, they all work for us. They all spend our money, they should be far more accountable to us. If a significant portion of the British people wants to put a decision to the country, it should be able to do so. A Swiss or Californian-style right to call a referendum would ensure that we never have to rely on the establishment's permission ever again, and if we feel they are not acting in our interests, we can take charge ourselves.

One of the comments on my recent piece suggesting that the referendum is actually a vote on democracy criticised me for saying that I suspect a remain vote will be used against us in future. Unlike David Cameron, George Osborne, Mark Carney et al., I don't claim to be able to see the future and feel that it is only right to make it clear when I'm speculating and when I'm dealing in fact. It is an inescapable fact that the EU is an undemocratic institution and that huge pressure is being used in an attempt to keep us in it. It is also an inescapable fact that the EU will change significantly as soon as this referendum is over - we are not signing up for the status quo. The EU will move towards closer political and economic union, there is a new EU budget on the horizon with a bigger cost for Britain, we may face the confidential leviathan that is TTIP, there will be new members joining, the possibility of VAT on food, and many other fundamental reforms that make it impossible for us to say with any certainty what, exactly, we are being asked to sign up to.

But rather than engage in a sensible debate about the implications of continued membership, or make an attempt to address people's legitimate concerns, Cameron & Co. are trying to terrify voters. Whether we leave or remain, the EU referendum is going to mark the moment when we, the people, re-examined how we engage with our representatives and demanded better from them.

If you've got six minutes spare, do watch what I believe is the best speech of the campaign so far - Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, outlining why leaving the EU is the sensible choice: