Central to the European debate that was held on Wednesday were issues of lies and leadership. What is very clear to me is that people are entitled to, and must have, the actual facts about the benefits and disadvantages of EU membership ideally before they vote in May this year, and certainly before any referendum is held.
The fact is that pulling out of Europe would be a very serious step to take. We are told that 3 million jobs rely on trade with the EU; we know that 80% of business leaders have said in a poll commissioned by the CBI that pulling out would be detrimental to our trading with the largest trading bloc in the world; we also know that through rapid technological change the world is becoming globalised and that we must work together to resolve cross-border issues such as climate change and crime.
Nigel Farage openly admitted on Wednesday that he had made up some facts to serve his argument., such as the claim he made that 75% of our laws are made in Europe (in fact it is just over 7%). He also made up the total number of Bulgarian and Romanian people who in theory could come to the UK—the number was larger than the combined populations of the two countries.
Such untruths and obfuscations are simply not acceptable if we are to have a mature and serious debate about issues that could critically affect people’s lives in the UK, and people must demand the facts and not stand by and be “fed” a diet of selective and inaccurate information.
At least Clegg and Farage have exhibited leadership over this issue that divides them, and that is to their credit. I find it disingenuous that Conservatives and Labour say they would leave it to the people to decide in a referendum and shirk from revealing their true colours. They are quite content taking huge decisions on behalf of the public when in power—which as our representatives they are allowed to do in our system of democracy—so why not tell us what they stand for when it comes to being in or out of the EU?
This failure of leadership has been a blight on the UK for some time, with the people losing out as party political loyalties edge them out. To my mind this crisis of leadership is the single issue that has affected our country for a considerable time. We have seen it in the inability of Government to devise sensible energy policy; plan transport infrastructure in a strategic manner; and to manage the economy in such a way that we are not destined for another round of “boom and bust” any time soon. And that is to mention just three issues.
The fact is that both the Conservatives and the Labour Party are letting the people down by not being grown up enough to lead on or even enter this debate. It is an important debate and the people are entitled to know where both parties stand.
I look forward to the next debate on Wednesday 2nd April.