Douglas Murray

The week in EU deceptions: Richard Reed, Ian McKellen and Eddie Izzard

The week in EU deceptions: Richard Reed, Ian McKellen and Eddie Izzard
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Anyone with any more corkers in their armoury should take note there’s less than a fortnight left in which to release them.

This week did see George Osborne finally challenged on why he and David Cameron keep pretending that a country they have always campaigned to bring into the EU will never in fact come into the EU. Questioned by Andrew Neil about David Cameron’s 2010 speech promising to ‘pave the road from Ankara to Brussels’ George Osborne said:

‘Well I was 16 years old when Turkey first applied to join the European Union, I’m now 45 and I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime because sadly actually over recent years Turkey has gone backwards.’

While it’s always nice to be reminded of George Osborne’s age, one cannot wholly admire this spin. Other politicians in other European countries have recognised for years that if Turkey ever joined the EU then it would destroy Europe. But during the same period David Cameron and George Osborne have always argued that Britain would be – in Cameron’s own words – the ‘strongest possible advocate’ for Turkish EU membership. Now George Osborne is trying to pretend that what was said until a few months ago is no longer his – or David Cameron’s – policy. Is it possible they are just pretending Turkish entry isn’t their policy so that in a few months (perhaps after successfully scaring the British public into voting ‘Remain’) their policy can revert to their earlier pro-Turkish, pro-Erdogan one?

One of the best tumbrilisms of the debate so far slipped from the mouth of one Richard Reed earlier this week. This is the kidult deputy leader of ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ principally known as the founder of ‘Innocent drinks’ – the delicious fruit-based smoothies which can be purchased in many shops. At a debate for the Express newspaper this week he took Kate Hoey MP and Nigel Farage to task on immigration. According to Reed, people from around the world come to Britain out of a selfless desire to assist in the great British social welfare project. Through this abandonment of self-interest they spend their lives assisting such people as Richard Reed’s nan and preventing his daughter from having to engage in incommodious employment. Or as he put it at one point, ‘I’ve just become a father for the first time. I do not aspire for my daughter to grow up to be a potato-picker.’A fine reason for Britain to import the entire third world in order to pick potatoes for his daughter and her generation. It's 17 mins in on here:

The worst actor’s quote of the week ought to go to Sir Ian McKellen, who when asked how he will vote on 23 June appeared to be labouring under the misapprehension that the EU referendum is a vote on gay rights. As he told his interviewer, ‘If I were to look at ‘in’ or ‘out’ from that point of view, there’s only one point, which is to stay. If you’re a gay person, you’re an internationalist.’ Any readers who are gay and were planning to vote ‘Leave’ must surely be questioning their sexuality by now. Have we been doing it all wrong all these years? Of course Sir Ian is perhaps just another public figure who seems to think that being an independent and sovereign country is the same thing as living in North Korea. The idea that an ‘internationalist’, not to mention anybody of any sexual orientation might not want to be ruled by an unaccountable elite in Brussels seems a mystery to some.

Sadly Sir Ian cannot be awarded this week’s actor’s silliness prize because of the typically stirring performance by Eddie Izzard on Thursday’s Question Time. Afterwards it is hard not to ponder whether the former comedian is a mole placed at the heart of the ‘Remain’ camp by ‘Leave’. A mole in a bright pink beret, but a mole nonetheless. In their struggle to convince wavering voters that ‘Leave’ is risky, who better to put the case for ‘Remain’ than a man in lipstick and nail-varnish, wearing a bright pink beret with a religious adoration of the EU and a fevered compulsion to talk over everyone else. One of his claims was that since Nigel Farage is descended from foreigners he has a cheek to voice any concerns on immigration. How interesting it always is to watch people who pretend that someone landing in Britain yesterday from Eritrea or Somalia is immediately ‘as British as the next person’, while someone with the ‘wrong’ opinions on immigration (ie, ‘thinks it should be managed’) is deemed ‘an immigrant’ even after centuries.

But this wasn’t Izzard’s worst fib. That was his presumption that there is something strange about supporting the UK while opposing the EU. Of the UK Izzard said, ‘We used to be separate nations and we came together. That’s what the world’s got to be about. We’ve got to head in that direction.’ Without enlightening us as to who ‘decided’ this future so definitively (Eddie Izzard, Noel Edmonds, Orville the Duck?) Izzard took no account of political unions that work versus those that do not. The history of the United Kingdom has been fairly impressive. Along with the USA it is probably the most successful political union in history. The EU, by contrast, has bankrupted southern Europe and alienated the rest of the continent for no demonstrable achievements at all. Unless, that is, you are one of those who believe Jean-Claude Junker personally stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and has brought peace to Europe ever since. Undeterred, Izzard insisted with his now trademark fanaticism that the ‘idea’ is to keep going ‘forward not backwards’. Led, presumably, by a commander in a pink beret who was funny twenty years ago. Incidentally, all the same arguments were made by Hilary Benn MP, but he wasn’t dressed as snazzily.

Finally I wonder why the ‘Remain’ camp is so viciously unpleasant in its efforts to misrepresent their opponent’s views? At the Express debate Chuka Umunna insisted to Farage, ‘You are an apologist for President Putin’. Farage denied this. Umunna’s ‘Remain’ colleague Richard Reed then said, [from about 1.4.30, here:] ‘You did call his work in Syria “brilliant” Nigel. You’re not an apologist, you’re a fan. Was it because he bombed civilians?’ Nobody picked up on it then, so I will here. In order to win this referendum the deputy leader of the official ‘Remain’ campaign is willing to pretend that Nigel Farage admires anybody who deliberately kills civilians. In the hurly-burly of politics I’m not sure when that sort of lie became acceptable. But so be it. Perhaps in future Nigel Farage should use his public meetings to suggest that ‘Innocent’ drinks are not in fact made with fruit but with pureed orphans. Who knows, perhaps some of the mud might stick and help damage Reed’s ‘brand’. That’s what he’s trying to do the other way around, isn’t it? So why is the reverse not acceptable?