Like the David Cameron I don’t love Brussels. Every year the same conversation, “how many do you want?”, “I can take one or two”. Every year the same thought, “why on earth do I bother? Why would I want to put these things on my plate, these green blobs that taste like 3 day old dead birds that have been dragged in by the cat”. They only serve to break my stride when woofing down an otherwise awesome Christmas dinner. I’ve decided…next year it’s going to be different.
However, as far as Brussels (the capital of Belgium and EU HQ) is concerned I find myself in a very unusual frame of mind. With regard to the upcoming referendum on our ongoing membership of the EU I’m officially on the fence!
In my professional life, where I lead change in large organisations, I’m a fairly considered person. I have to be because I’m constantly looking to avoid unintended consequences. Whilst my experience tells me broadly what direction to take, I’m careful to keep looking at the data, either supportive or not, to prove or disprove my instincts. I’m careful to underpin my gut with firm evidence.
Politically I’m not on the fence. I’m a free market libertarian and like most people I’ll look at the odd item of evidence that contradicts my view, but I suspect like most people I only do that to head off the opposing view. Generally speaking our political views are as much about emotion as they are about logic and things are not as black and white as they first appear. For me though the freer the market the freer the people, and there is not even one good working example of a nation that operates by central dictat. So that’s my logic, but right now I’m not trusting my instincts, which are telling me to get out of the EU.
One of the many reasons I’m a Libertarian is that I’ve worked the majority of my 35 years working life in large, hierarchical organisations in both the public and private sectors. I’ve seen first-hand how dysfunctional these organisations can be and my experience has fed my distrust of institutions. I believe that most institutions, especially those that purport to serve the people, are necessary-evils and should be treated with absolute scepticism. Once an organisation gets to a certain level of maturity its very existence becomes the most important thing in its day to day operations. I’ve lost count of the number of meetings, workshops or away-days I’ve been on where the words “customer” or “client” were totally absent. When managers in these organisations talk about risk management, which is incessantly, they are talking about risk to reputation and they see anyone outside the organisation as a potential threat to be managed. And so it is with the European Union, we are to be managed, both as individuals and as a nation.
This is also that case with the UK Government. Don’t get me wrong, I think David Cameron as PM has been an excellent manager, with a few notable exceptions who were rubbish managers, and a few who were actual leaders, he joins the ranks of the unremarkable PMs.
In 2010 when faced with holding a party together, and having previously seen the divisions when he was a SPAM (sorry SPAD) he kicked the can down the road in 2013 by promising EU reform followed by a referendum. From that moment he’s taken the easy route, the lazy option. Surrounded by advisors and bureaucrats he’s all about managing risk, and nothing about doing the right thing for Britain. He’s convinced himself that he’s acting in the country’s best interest but he isn’t, and that’s clear from the outside because we are not surrounded by risk averse ‘flunkies’.
The remainder of David Cameron’s premiership will be about avoiding trade negotiations, avoiding new relationships and about the status quo. There are a lot of people in Britain however, who are up for the risk, who embrace the notion that we don’t need to tip our hats to the ‘mid grade belgique bank managers’.
So more slowly than other liberty minded folk, I’m coming to the conclusion that the European Union is a perverse and unnecessary evil. Right now its main raison d’etre is survival and in its relatively short life it has not demonstrated an appetite for change, change that the whole of Europe needs.
What we need right now is a leader with vision for the UK, that vision and that leadership will not emerge out of the ‘remain’ camp. A leader that means what they say, one that is happier without Brussels on their Christmas plate.