We are not against migration per se – indeed, as free-market Conservatives we admire the get-up-and-go of immigrants, and we can see how a modern economy relies on talented people being able to come to our shores. We just think it is not unreasonable for a government to have some idea of who is coming, how many there are, what they propose to do, and how local councils will cover the cost of their children’s education and all the other expenditure they might incur to the taxpayers of this country.
A return to sensible and practical border controls – that is something we agree on; and we agree on the need to scrap the Common Agricultural Policy, which costs every family £400 a year in extra food costs, and to stop the insane levels of meddling that the Commission seems to enjoy – such as telling us how much suction power we are allowed to have in our vacuum cleaners. We have a proud and ancient trading standards department. We have plenty of officials whose lives have been consecrated to the study of vacuum cleaners and their workings; and frankly it should be up to the sovereign people of this country and their elected representatives to decide how vigorously they want to suck up the dust mites in their carpets or indeed anything else.
The great thing about having such views is that we are no longer seen as fruitcakes or extremists, and that we are no longer alone. There are people around Europe who also believe that the bureaucracy has become intrusive, and that the costs for business have become too high. They look at the unemployment rates in the eurozone, and they see the need for reform, and a self-denying ordinance from Brussels. They agree with us, that you could very usefully decide not to impose so much regulation on small businesses – say, those with fewer than 10 employees.
But consider, my dear fellow Eurosceptic: there is only one prime minister in the current EU who is capable of collating that support and turning it into a new treaty, and only one man who is going to be able to give the people of this country the vote on the EU that we have been deprived of for the past 40 years, and that man is David Cameron.
I know this point is trite, and that you have now heard it a million times, but it happens to be true. There are only two people who are in a position to take the keys to Downing Street next May, and they are David Cameron or Ed Miliband. I know that you disagree vehemently with most of what Ed Miliband says and does – and so I must urge you not to allow the disaster of a Miliband premiership.
I thought his amazing oversight last week – when he “forgot” to mention the economy – was in fact a piece of subconscious self-defence. There is a part of him that knows his economic policies are risible, or at least capable of being destroyed under sustained examination, so he decided to keep them under wraps. When he was feeling more candid, a few months ago – and before the economic recovery in this country had got into its stride – he used to explain his vision for the country. It was quite simple, he said: he wanted Britain to be more like… wait for it… France! Yes, France – where they have unemployment at 12 per cent and a top rate of tax at 75 per cent and where so many intelligent French people have fled the Hollande regime that London is the fourth biggest French city on earth.
In so far as he was willing to spell out his economic policy for this country, Mili-Hollande wants a swingeing and destructive new property tax, rather like the French impot sur les grandes fortunes, that would end up hitting hundreds of thousands of people who happen to be living in a family home whose value has inflated through no fault of their own.
Is that what you want, my friend? A Miliband tax on thrift, on effort, on people who have saved up and worked hard to pay their mortgages? I can’t believe that is part of your agenda – any more than you want to see Miliband and Balls come back and put income taxes up, as they are pledged to do, for all who earn more than £26,000 a year.
This isn’t the time to give any kind of accidental assistance to this rubbish: this is the time to unite and fight for what we believe in; and the auguries for 2015 have never been better. Labour are puttering at 35 per cent in the polls; they should be miles ahead to have any chance of winning.
To put it another way, I was much further behind Labour in London in 2007, and went on to win the mayoralty in 2008. Tories tend to close the gap in the last few months as people look harder at what is being offered, and I believe in the next few months and years the news about this country and its prospects are going to get better and better – if we can keep Labour out.
If you really want to let this country sleepwalk into a Labour government, then that is your prerogative. You can close your eyes and let it happen. You kip if you want to; the rest of us are going to fight and win.