WHY DAVID CAMERON MESSED UP
Have you ever won a prize you didn't want?
On the day I handed in my notice as Europe Director for Sky TV to fight for Britain to take back control of Europe through my think-tank, British Influence, I wrote an article you can read it here saying:
"Unless a clear view is pushed that Britain must lead in Europe at the very least to achieve the completion of the single market then the portmanteau for Greek euro exit might be followed by another sad word, Brexit."
Then I forgot it. Until one day just after the referendum, the Oxford English Dictionary called me and said that, hey, Brexit is your word, it's the 2016 word of the year, congratulations, you must be thrilled? Yeah, right.
So, it’s all my fault. Sorry.
But having invented the word, I can now reveal the hopeless mistakes by arrogant people made on the way which have led us to this place.
First in the stocks go our political leaders.
I knew that the key to the Brexit war was who won the battle over patriotism.
Would Farage and his little Englanders destroy Britain's historic mission as a leading shaper of modern Europe? From William Pitt who sought "a treaty to which all parties of Europe should bind themselves to protect and support each other," to Churchill's support of a united Europe, Britain's statesmen had always sought to lead not leave their continent.
Take back control, yes, but by stepping up not stepping away from our historic role as one of the top players at the continental table. Wrap yourself in the union jack and steal Nigel’s thunder.
Though Europe sought our leadership, our recent leaders failed them. And us. Urging Cameron to assume Churchill's mantle, I showed him our polling which revealed that 65% of Brits craved their country to lead in Europe.
They wanted a PM with vision, playing beautiful, attacking continental football rather than always cowering defensively in the penalty box. Cameron shrugged.
This is what he said:
"It’s too late to be positive. We haven’t – and I can’t – roll that pitch now. It’s all about tactics not strategy. I won the Scottish referendum through fear, the general election through fear, and I’ll win this through fear – and economics."
Then he walked out of the cabinet room.
By then it had dawned on me that both he, and all leaders, were staggeringly careless about Britain's fragile power and how to influence the EU.
Little wonder then, that with no nous at the top, 65% of the people believed that Britain had no influence, no friends, no idea.
Here was how Brexit, as a narcissistic victim syndrome ignited by charlatan nostalgists, was born. Because top politicians couldn't be bothered to lead. Danny Alexander said he couldn’t be patriotic, Nick Clegg was queasy, MP’s feared the press and their party members.
But what about the top business leaders?
For the captains of industry I met all that mattered was money. Some, allied with Number 10, fell into the Oscar Wilde trap. They were cynics who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Others, heads of international businesses, decadently scarpered away from the most epic political question of the age because their wealth and their companies could always relocate if things went wrong.
Globalisation had sucked patriotism from the top. By doing so, its insouciant leaders fed nationalism to the bottom. Millions, struggling to make sense of a changing world, knew that they couldn't be bothered to understand.
Third in the stocks go the media, of course. The Westminster circus was so much more fun for them than reporting the facts their owners didn’t want the public to know.
Fourth in the stock goes the bland fiasco that was the Stronger In – or rather the Weaker Out operation.
But that I’ll talk about tomorrow.