It’s that time of the week again, when I promised to round up the worst contributions to the Brexit debate.
The Prime Minister got the week off to a good start by claiming that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the famed head of ISIS, is a supporter of ‘Vote Leave’. In fact the putative world Caliph has yet to come out for either side in the UK referendum, though the attacks in Paris last November suggest that the EU’s weak external borders and absent internal borders have been working out nicely for the terrorist chief. As a result the smart money is on al-Baghdadi coming out for ‘Remain’, though I’m sure nobody in the ‘Leave’ camp would make such a tasteless claim.
A day later Michael Heseltine emerged as the PM’s hit-man by claiming in a BBC interview that Boris Johnson’s behaviour in the EU referendum campaign has been ‘preposterous, obscene’ and that he would be ‘very surprised’ if Johnson could become Prime Minister after this. Whether this outburst has anything to do with Heseltine’s life-long advocacy for the EU, including an insistence that the UK join the Euro, is unknown. The ostensible cause was what Heseltine deemed an inappropriate reference to the Second World War (an event of which Heseltine pretended Johnson had either not heard, or actively approved). I suppose the unforgivable nature of Johnson’s reference stands in stark contrast to the entirely appropriate and dignified effort by Heseltine’s master, a week earlier, to posthumously recruit all the dead of the Second World War onto the ‘Remain’ side in the current referendum.
Heseltine also questioned Johnson’s judgement by declaring ‘I think that every time he makes one of these extraordinary utterances, people in the Conservative Party will question whether he now has the judgement for that role.’ Of course Lord Heseltine’s own behaviour and judgement have always been famously impeccable, from the time he waved the House of Commons mace around his head and was forced to leave the chamber, to his decision to politically assassinate the most successful Conservative leader of his political lifetime.
The week finished with a strong entry from 300 actors and others in the ‘entertainment industries’ who signed a letter claiming that our nation’s artistic life relies on our membership of the EU. They specifically highlighted ‘vital EU funding’ and the importance of work across borders. It seems Jude Law, Keira Knightley, Eddie Izzard and Benedict Cumberbatch are not only rather cheaply bought, but under the impression that if Britain regains her independence on June 23rd nobody will ever again be allowed to work with foreigners. In addition they claimed that ‘Britain is not just stronger in Europe, it is more imaginative and more creative, and our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.’ Anybody who thought great art somewhat relied on a degree of unpredictability or uncertainty would be wrong. Just imagine what Shakespeare could have achieved if he had lived even into the era of the Common Market.
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker rounded off the week with a well-placed warning that British ‘deserters’ will face ‘consequences’ if they vote to leave the EU. In an interview with Le Monde the ‘Leave’ campaign’s secret-weapon also added that he didn’t see how the EU could deliver the package of promises that David Cameron claims to have ‘wrestled’ from the Brussels earlier this year.
But the last entry of the week may also be the best. On Saturday George Osborne was back on the subject of house prices, with a reiteration of his threat that in the event of Brexit your house price will fall and your mortgage strangely rise. This is not the only problem. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ‘If we leave the European Union… people will not know what the future looks like.’ This is a very great problem indeed. Hitherto the future has always been obvious. While it is true that George Osborne has never been able to predict what will happen in the next financial quarter while we are in the EU it is wonderful that he can estimate the value of your house in 2030 should we vote ‘leave’. That value will be roughly a hen and two eggs, sterling having collapsed and a barter economy having been introduced by then.