When it comes to the current debate about the EU referendum between our senior politicians I have grave doubts about their wisdom and judgement as it frequently appears to be yet another playground spat between privileged and immature individuals who share their own perceived right to lead. For myself I hesitate to call them leaders.
The referendum itself is the result of David Cameron’s weakness and inability to control his own backbenchers: the justification offered being that it was necessary in order to hold the Conservative Party together faced by the threat of UKIP. Given that the result of the referendum could lead to the breakdown of the EU itself, not to mention the possible break-up of the United Kingdom, this to me appears to be of a far greater scale of consequence than the splitting of the Conservative Party, which many may consider both more desirable and a natural by-product given where it stands at the moment.
My position on Europe has been constant since the time of our joining, and you will recall that the entry of Great Britain to the then Common Market, at that time considered ‘the sick man of Europe’, was initially blocked by President De Gaulle. (De Gaulle blocks Britain’s entry again). But I believed then that we should join, and now, that we should remain in the EU and work with our neighbours to the advantage of all.
The main reason for my decision is based upon my own life experience at the time of the Second World War which I was reminded of recently when reading Louise Kehoe’s memoir ‘In This Dark House’. Louise Kehoe is the daughter of Berthold Lubetkin the founder of the modernist architectural practice TECTON responsible for many of the ground-breaking buildings of the immediate post-war period.
Lubetkin gave up a thriving London based practice at the onset of the Second World War and retreated to a cottage in the Gloucestershire countryside when his daughter was a small child. She writes: ‘To my parents the pull of this beautiful backwater must have seemed irresistible. The country was on the brink of war; uncertainty permeated every aspect of daily life. Bomb shelters were hurriedly being constructed in towns and cities all over England, and propaganda posters had begun appearing everywhere. ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’. – – After all, ‘you never knew who might be listening, who might be a spy or a Nazi sympathizer’. Upper Killington, isolated and untouched by the troubles of the twentieth century, offered an oasis of immutable calm and reassuring predictability’.
For many and for the great majority of our politicians who did not live through that period, probably the nearest they would come to that time would be when watching re-runs of Dad’s Army. A cosy, roses-round-the door, view of a period which was actually in its early years alarming and for many in this country life-threatening. Made more alarming still, by the fact that our enemy, the Germans, were then a mere twenty miles away.
In fact Upper Killington, Gloucestershire, wasn’t that far away from Gloucester where I was born and as a small child lived. I remember all too well the fear that gripped our small street when air-raid sirens wailed at night followed by the drone of the Luftwaffe’s bombers and our hurried scrambles, my mother and father with two babes in arms, my brother and sister, to the air-raid shelter at the end of the street where we would remain until the all-clear rang out.
Gloucester, a relatively small city at that time, nevertheless, because of its docks, had a strategic importance to the enemy as did the local airport at Filton. Once, alarmingly, I stayed overnight with my grandparents. They lived above the Bridge Inn at Llanthony Rd at the heart of Gloucester’s dockland, and now adjacent to the site of the Waterways Museum, and as such the main target for the Luftwaffe. The familiar air-raid siren and drone of the bombers occurred that very night and I recall the following morning the adults going to inspect the bomb damage a mere four hundred yards or so away.
Such memories are literally seared into the sub-conscious and are never forgotten and are the reason above all why I support the Churchill dictum: ‘Jaw-jaw, not war-war’.
We were lucky then as a nation to be led by substantial men: leaders who had been forged by their own war-time experience – Churchill, Attlee, Bevin. While France had their own saviour General De-Gaulle and in America, Presidents Franklin D Roosevelt succeeded by Harry Truman. Those leaders worked together to win the war and subsequently to forge the peace. Then came the subsequent establishment of NATO and The European Union.
“Visionary leaders inspired the creation of the European Union we live in today. Without their energy and motivation we would not be living in the climate of peace and stability that we take for granted nowadays. From resistance fighters to lawyers, the Founding Fathers were a diverse group of people who held the same ideals: a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.” The European Union
The EU has evidently been a success in its primary aim for the last seventy years and so to hear those who want to leave say it isn’t needed as there have been no European wars for the last seventy years beggars belief. But in the end it comes down to the judgement and competence of our erstwhile leaders: and whatever some may feel, men are not born to be leaders, nor can those qualities be bred as a result of an expensive education. Leadership emerges through struggle. Churchill before the war that brought him to the fore was regarded by many as a war-monger and a divisive politician. He flitted between the Conservative and the Liberal Party, before becoming the man now revered by history. But that the leadership of this country should now be so shallow, so self-serving and so inadequate as to threaten European and World order is staggering set in this historical context. We are led patently by immature men who mistake education for wisdom and the ability to form a correct judgement, and are unable to make the wise choice as a result of their own vanity and lack of abiding principle. In one respect perhaps Cameron should have learned from Churchill, and put principle before party, accepting if necessary the splitting of his party before engaging the people of this country in the lottery of a referendum. The tragedy is that by his actions he may actually achieve not only the collapse of the European settlement but the break up of the United Kingdom and the break up of the party that he currently leads.
There is much to debate as to how the EU should move forward and there will be areas of disagreement and decisions to take, including present levels of migration as a result of instability in the Middle-east, but the only way it is possible to influence that debate and bring your views to bear is if you take part in the debate, and to do that it is necessary to be a member of the European Union. Therefore and for the reasons that I have given above I will be voting to REMAIN in the European Union and I urge everyone to reflect carefully, examine the situation in its historical context, and make their decision with a clear conscience to do the same.