Leafing through a pile of Economists I’ve just caught up on a Bagehot column from last month which inadvertently demonstrates exactly where UKIP’s opponents go wrong.
The very final lines of the piece explain:
‘Mr Farage’s real dream is to reshape Britain, by pulling the Conservatives to the right and bouncing Mr Cameron into a referendum on EU membership. If he pulls that off, his insurgency will be no laughing matter.’
It is what is assumed here, rather than what is said, that is most revealing.
Why should the prospect of a consultation of the British people on their membership of the EU be so fearful? Surely it could only be so if you were somebody greatly in favour of the EU who believed that the public did not share your beliefs?
Accidental though it may be, the Economist’s wallah reminds us of the problem at the heart of the EU. Many of us dislike the institution not because it is foreign but because it is so wildly, indeed flauntingly, unaccountable. Defenders of the EU status quo cannot answer this charge, and instead of attempting to answer it, or trying to do anything to change it, simply hold a line which insists the EU (as well as the British government) becomes more unaccountable still.
Aside from the consistent injury it exerts upon itself, it often seems to me that the EU project will not be destroyed by its enemies, but by its friends.