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Let's Hear About the Dream of Europe

22/06/2015 11:43 BST | Updated 21/06/2016 10:59 BST

Much of the political talk this past week has been of UKIP's ineptitude. The resignation that never was has now been followed by the sacking that never was, with Suzanne Evans unceremoniously dumped and inelegantly reinstated as a party spokesperson for the European separatists in the space of mere hours.

With a European referendum that will now be on us before we know it, however, my gaze has been drawn by the comparable ineptitude of their opponents.

For despite their many and various flaws, UKIP have succeeded in their primary goal: to put Britain's exit from the European Union at the top of the political agenda in this country. Through a combination of individual charisma and collective vision, they have brought us all to a point where leaving Europe just might become a reality.

They may lack - at the moment - the Scottish National Party's polish and political guile, but they have matched Sturgeon, Salmond et al for momentum and sheer intrigue, and perhaps even trumped them when it comes to disrupting the traditional elite. At a time when economic concerns have become the black whole in which all other political issues have been swallowed, for a European referendum to become a reality is no small achievement.

Of course, this could not have happened without the clear support of vast swathes of British society. They may not have won a political earthquake's worth of seats in May's election, but there was certainly some seismic activity as almost 4 million people voted UKIP.

For many, the party have simply captured a pre-existing zeitgeist, tapping in to a national desire for more control over Britain's borders, mistrust of immigrants and general anti-European sentiment. But to my mind, this has certainly been developed, if not part-created, by the vision UKIP have chosen to communicate, and the way they have communicated it.

UKIP are impassioned. They believe - and demonstrate their belief - in the idea of British values for British people. These values - and people - they feel are distinct from the values of Europe. They think Britain's interests are distinct from those of Europe. That life would be better outside the EU. That life can look better. Feel better. Be better.

It's stirring stuff. And it works. Or at least it almost worked in Scotland. Last year's referendum saw the Scottish separatists putting forward an almost identical argument for Scotland to leave the UK. The choice came down to this passionate, exciting, uplifting and positive argument against the sensible, cautious, safety-first approach of the no campaign. When dour old Gordon Brown has to step in at the last minute to offer the first truly fervent and engaging speech of a political campaign, you know there is a problem.

Of course, at the last minute, just enough Scots decided that safety-first was their best option. But it was by no means conclusive. And the result - and subsequent General Election - has clearly left the door open to a future referendum on the subject.

Again, it appears, the forthcoming European referendum will follow the same model. The political elite, most of whom will support the status quo, will take the safety-first line. It won in Scotland (just). It even contributed to the General Election. So to them, it seems, it will probably win again.

I'm not so sure. The popularity of the SNP and UKIP is itself a testament to long term dissatisfaction with the status quo. At some point, without doubt, this will be reflected in results in the polling station. There have been close calls. The warnings need to be heeded.

There needs to be passionate, positive support for Britain's continued membership of the EU.

For this paragraph, I wanted to find some examples of this passionate support which have slipped under the media radar. Perhaps I need more practice as a researcher. Or perhaps there just haven't been any. This is very strange. Even if the primary narrative is that staying in the EU would be 'safer', surely there would be no harm in adding some passion to proceedings?

For what it's worth, I can think of a fair few reasons to stay in Europe.

For one, we might leave the EU, but we will never leave Europe. It is perfectly possible to have breakfast in Birmingham, and lunch in La Rochelle. The comfort of a train can take you from London to Lille in less than an hour and a half. Europe may not quite be what some Americans imagine - some of my stateside friends are clearly of the belief that Big Ben can be seen from the top of the Eiffel Tower - but we are definitely part of it. No matter how passionate he is, Nigel Farage will never be able to tow us further out into the Atlantic Ocean.

And as a result, we are most definitely 'European' as a people. Our work ethic is not quite German, our cooking not quite French, our football not quite Spanish, and our politicians not quite Italian, but we are much closer than you might think. When travelling in Europe, I am always struck by how similar so many things are to back home. If not slightly better.

I feel European. I believe in it. So let's hear from some politicians who feel the same.

I can think of a few who might. A number of frontline politicians have European wives (including a certain Nigel Farage), many have worked, or even grown up, on the continent. Some have even spoken in the past of their admiration for the concept of Europe. In 2006, a certain Boris Johnson wrote a book called 'The Dream of Rome', vast swathes of which focussed on his admiration for Imperial Rome's success in developing and spreading a common European identity, and how that may apply to contemporary Europe.

It is time more people heard about this dream. Before UKIP and their allies subject us all to a nightmare.