BY midnight tonight, the shouting will be over. The EU Referendum debate will have exhausted itself after months of endless slagging off. And will we be any the wiser? Not by a country kilometre (a little noticed EU directive has ordered that good English clichés should be metricised).
So what will we decide? A glance at today’s front pages reveals the Daily Mail urging out with the headline: “If you believe in Britain vote leave.” The similarly Eurosceptic Sun ropes the Queen into the argument – “Give me 3 good reasons to stay in Europe” – adding a mock-respectful punchline: “Sorry, Ma’am, we can’t think of ONE.”
The rapidly anti-European Express has the same story, based on reports of what the Queen was said to have been overheard asking at a dinner party, while also tempting readers with a free Brexit poster.
Only the Mirror among what we used to call the tabloids is going for Europe, saying: “Vote Remain tomorrow” for a long list of reasons.
I’m not much of a monarchist, but I reckon the poor old Queen has been dragged into this argument too often. Two thoughts arise: one, it would hardly be surprising if a 90-year-old woman of privilege needed convincing of the merits of Europe; two, using the Queen in this way is scurrilous and disrespectful. It is also, to use a more technical term, almost certainly utter bollocks.
The Guardian has a good leader which begins: “Thursday’s vote is in some ways a choice between an imaginary past of which too many in this country cannot let go and a future about which all of us are inescapably uncertain.”
I offer that good sentence because it sums up what I feel.
That newspaper also carries an interview with David Cameron in which he accuses leave campaigners of stoking intolerance and division with extreme warnings on immigration, adding that if we vote to leave Britain will be seen as a more “narrow, insular and inward-looking” country.
Heavens, a moment ago I was supporting the Queen. And now I am going to stick up for David Cameron. The prime minister is right about the quitters and the haters. And I sincerely hope his view prevails tomorrow.
But I do have a rider to that sentiment: you, sir, put this vile stew to boil by deciding to have this hateful referendum in the first place, for reasons mostly connected to divisions within your own party, alongside the dangerous allure of UKIP to the more red-faced members of the Tory tribe.
So you can hardly complain about the nasty splashes left on the wall. You can hardly say, “Well, look at this mess.” Too late now, David – but don’t you regret ever taking that decision? All it’s done has shown Britain at its worst.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow. My instinct is that after all the hullabaloo, after all the insults, and after all the bar-stool bigotry from Nigel Farage – a nasty game he’s been playing for years, a game he more or less invented – Britain will vote to remain in Europe. I hope so, as that is the sound and sensible thing to do.
But an awful lot of bile has been invested in convincing us to leave, and maybe after tomorrow we’ll be gone. We certainly would be if the Daily Express had its way, although thankfully the country is wider and deeper than that newspaper’s narrow front page.
The Brexit campaign has run on paranoia and hatred, and in my bones I feel Britain is not really like that. We don’t want to crawl into that dark crevice with Farage, Gove and blustering Boris for company. We don’t want to put up silly ‘go away’ posters in our windows. We want to stay in Europe and fight our corner, not run away and sink into a victory that would turn into a Little England quagmire soon enough.
So there you have it: my last plea for us to Remain.