12 October 2015

June Sarpong? Sir Stuart Rose? Karren Brady? What is this? 2002?


It will be said a great deal in the next few months that the Leave it Out campaign (as I am determined to call those leading the charge in favour of the UK leaving the EU in the forthcoming referendum) is stuck in the past. The Eurosceptics want every day to be May 10th 1940, their opponents imply, with Churchill manning the air raid siren and cheerful cockneys going about their business waving Union flags and whistling a happy tune as the bombs fall. The Inners message to the Eurosceptics is stop focussing on the past and “get with it, daddio”. Get into the groove of European integration with an op-out on currency, a pledge of increased subsidiarity and reform at some point in the future. The Outers are the past and the Inners are the future, supposedly.

A German politician was on the radio the other day saying that it was so. The British Empire, he said, is over (we’re quite aware of that, thank you very much) and all of this totally crazy talk about countries making their own laws has to stop. I mean what kind of deluded country makes its own laws any more? Okay, apart from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, China… I could go on. But  that German MEP’s tone was so counterproductive that I wondered if he had been hired by the Leave it Out campaign to discredit the In crowd.

And then came today’s somewhat bizarre “In” launch. As a Eurosceptic MP put it to me this morning: “They have so much money, and their reach is incredible.” That being the case, how could they kick off with such a line-up? It featured a curious array of voices.

June Sarpong is a talented television presenter and a very nice person. But not even her friends would claim that she is still at the cutting edge of youth culture.

Sir Stuart Rose used to run Marks & Spencer, and for all I know the chap may be devoid of blame when it comes to the ruination of the good old-fashioned M&S boxer short, which the company redesigned calamitously more than a decade ago, thus driving away a generation of men who had once bought their other clothes elsewhere but still returned to M&S to purchase socks and boxer shorts. No longer.

Then the In campaign produced Karren Brady, who is the government’s favourite business person for reasons that remain obscure.

Accentuating the timewarp vibe, Peter Mandelson is also a big supporter of In and Tony Blair’s name was invoked. Are they trying to lose?

Look, plenty of the Leave team are veterans from previous political eras with contestable track records and a variety of views, but their case is not predicated on creating a feeling of glossy modernity and future-proof, feel-good fashionable sentiment.

I looked at that In line-up today and in presentational terms I saw late-period post-Millennium Dome crumbling Cool Britannia. It looked like a bad drinks party at Labour conference in the year 2000. Or a CBI event in favour of the Euro in 2002.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.