Peter Shore’s 1975 speech on the EEC referendum debate…
Tomorrow sees the United Kingdom (those who can be bothered) vote on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. According to opinion polls (if they are to be believed) show the country split almost entirely down the middle in an election nobody is confident of predicting. For those of us living in the UK it has been weeks of endless arguments, dodgy mathematics, mind-numbing rhetoric and Shakespearean backstabbing and plot making.
Immigration has been at the forefront of the debate, those on the Remain side juggle with it like a burning coal which goes on burning and those for Brexit tell us how marvellous the Australians are at this kind of thing. Whatever your persuasion there is no doubt that immigration can not be sensibly discussed via the media. If one is pro EU immigration they are classed Guardian reading liberal softies, for those who favour controlled immigration they are Enoch Powell reborn. The level of debate has been poor and tiresome, there is a fundamental dishonesty on both sides and a refusal to acknowledge real problems in Europe today caused by the poor politics of yesterday and today.
Ignore history at one’s peril regardless of political leanings. In 1975 the Labour politician Peter Shore spoke at the Oxford Union EEC referendum debate. He was a dissident voice in the renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s membership and the ensuing result along with his opposition cost him the hope of becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer. Shore feared for Britain’s inability to charter its own economic path because of EEC membership and made this impassioned speech against our continued membership.
Regardless of opinion this is a noteworthy speech, whether I agree with him or not it is political history worthy of recall and consideration. Was he right? Shore died in 2001 but I am in no doubt that had he lived on for tomorrow’s vote he would have been a clear voice for reform. We need a lot less of ‘immigration, immigration, immigration’ and a lot more of reasoned, sensible discourse about all of the policies which affects us.
Even if you are sick of the debate this is worth watching for anyone who has designs on public speaking…