Alex Massie Alex Massie

Ed Miliband adopts a rope-a-dope strategy on Europe

Hopi Sen is not alone. There are many people in this country supremely indifferent to the whole and vexatious question of whether or not there should be a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Yes, yes, they will tell pollsters that if they must they suppose they might fancy having a referendum some day. But they don’t really care. They mumble about a referendum because that seems the done thing to do and because when a pollster asks you if you’d like to have a say on something it sounds better to say Yes than No thanks, I really can’t be bothered.

And sure, if pressed, they might grumble and chunter about the European Union too and say that it seems to be an unnecessarily invasive institution – or set of institutions, treaties and agreements. Judges may be mentioned. So might bananas and their curvature. All the familiar and favourite things.

But in the end, deep down, most people don’t really care. Not very much anyway. A lot of noise is made by the people who really do care about Europe – many of them dizzyingly monomaniacal – and this impresses lots of folk at Westminster and in newspaper offices but their volume disguises the fact that the people who really, really care about the EU are a pretty small minority. And the number who work themselves into a popped-blood-vessel frenzy over the precise timing and nature of an In or Out referendum is even smaller. These people are not truly representative of the Silent Majority Who Don’t Give Much of a Toss.

This should not surprise. Most subjects are minority enthusiasms. Relatively few people really care about education policy, for instance. People think, in general terms, that there should be schools and it would be good if they were good schools but so long as their own children appear to be getting a decent education most of them don’t much care – not really – whether the kids from across town are receiving a proper education.

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