Regardless of their position on the political spectrum, any politician ought to relish the prospect of debating a juicy topic like Britain’s place in Europe. Lust for money and power aside, it is the prospect of weighing in on such an important issue that gets people into politics in the first place. Why, then, was it with such great reluctance that David Cameron called for a referendum on our membership of the European Union? Given the deep divisions within the Conservative party, he most likely predicted the resultant debate would have nothing to do with Europe, but would instead be fought along ideological lines. As painful as it is to admit, Cameron was right.
Take the darling of the far left: Jeremy Corbyn. Here we have a man of much vaunted principles, which includes a long history of voting as a Eurosceptic. Why, then, is Corbyn leading his party to campaign for Britain to remain in an unreformed European Union? The sad fact is that this decision is driven by ideological concerns; chief amongst which is the belief that if the far right campaigns for something, the far left is obligated to oppose them. His spat with Hilary Benn over Trident betrayed his feelings regarding those who do not share this belief.
Things are worse on the right, where an ideological divide threatens to tear the Conservative party apart. For working class families, the ideological differences between Cameron and Michael Gove matter as much as the differences between a brown bear and a black bear matter to a man being mauled to death. To those fighting in the Tory civil war, however, the differences are of the utmost significance. Truth be told, the fact that it is Europe that has divided the Conservative party is purely arbitrary. For a long time now, the old school Tories, the Michael Goves and the Ian Duncan Smiths, have been spoiling for a fight. Worst of all is Boris Johnson, who has previously always managed to remain relatively neutral on Europe. Claiming to have thought long and hard about the referendum, he surprised no one when he sided with those opposing the Prime Minister. The enemy of my enemy, and all that.
Our long promised referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has been hijacked. There has been painfully little meaningful debate on economic or social implications. What we have been offered instead, from both sides, is misinformation and blatant scaremongering. We may all now appreciate the frustration of the Scots, who saw their referendum on independence reduced to a bitter argument about the socialist ideology of the SNP. The USA, so often ahead of us on the same path, has seen its entire politician system high jacked by ideologies, as our referendum has been. That this had facilitated the rise of extremists like Donald Trump should serves as a warning to our nation. We cannot allow politics to be an ideological battleground, or we will all find ourselves caught in the crossfire.
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