It is a strange thing that even after being dead for 11 years Ted Heath is still calling the tune on Europe. He introduced Decimalisation, replacing our beloved currency with what appeared to be a toy town alternative. The pre-decimalisation British system of coinage was introduced by King Henry II. It was based on the troy system of weighing precious metals. The penny was literally one pennyweight of silver. A pound sterling thus weighed 240 pennyweights, or a pound of sterling silver. A pocketful of old pennies made you feel pretty well off, and a half crown was a joy to handle. I remember the sudden surge in prices after decimalisation, when everything seemed to be rounded up, and very little, if anything at all was rounded down. I vowed then as a boy that I would never forgive him that act of robbery.
As regards the Common Market (yes, that’s all it was in those heady days of 1972 – a shared market for trade, nothing more, nothing less), Heath reneged on his prior promise that such a momentous step could and should only be enacted with `the full hearted consent of Parliament and people’. It was a lie because such full hearted consent was never sought prior to entry, and in the subsequent Wilson Referendum the whole might of the Government and a majority of the establishment was thrown at keeping us in.
To quote from the FT article ( June 4th 2015) back then ‘Britain in Europe, the Yes group, was impressively well funded, backed by an array of big corporate names such as Debenhams and BP. In total it raised £1.5m — or £11m in today’s money. The anti-European opponents, called British Business for World Markets, had just £133,629, equivalent to £1m today. In the 1975 European referendum the CBI spent £50,000 — equivalent to £375,000 today — on literature, organisation and promotion. The group had polled 12,000 members, discovering that only seven thought membership was bad for business. The list of donations from the referendum read like a roll-call of big British corporate brands…………..’.
The scales were weighted heavily against us, even then.
It is clear to me that the 1975 Referendum was fought and won on the basis of a perception that the Common Market was no more than a docile target zone of opportunity for Britain’s manufacturers and traders, a market place where goods could be bought and sold, each one of the constituent nations benefitting from the enhanced openings that membership would bring. With the exception of a handful of prophetic visionaries, there was no mention of a Super State, not a scintilla of anxiety about a United States of Europe, because nobody of sound mind could ever imagine that our Parliament would ever allow such a thing to happen. After all, had we not emerged, just a few decades before, from a conflagration caused by one nation that had taken designs on swallowing other nations in a search for an Empire of Europe? Such talk was denounced as scaremongering. Those who indulged in it might well have been labelled ‘Project Fear.’
The question for me, and it is fundamental to my view of Europe, is ‘how much did Heath know at the outset?’ I am convinced that he knew where this would go, that the impetus driving the project was much more than economic, much more than sound commercial sense; that ultimately there would have to be a pooling of sovereignty and a consequent diminishment of national identity and autonomy. This was the Lie. This was not an economic arrangement; it was a political project, a rewriting of the European Map. It might take decades, but this was the goal and the reality.
As any musician knows, a symphony is a combination of many parts. A good musician does not only learn his own part, but will avail himself of the opportunity to learn as many of the other parts in the symphony as he can. However, there is only one person who must know the full score in all of its details, dynamics and intricacies………the Conductor. He has the job of taking the symphony through all of its changing movements and of delivering the closing peroration. He must be able to start, to maintain, and then to complete.
The picture I have is this; in the corner of the hall a group of ordinary British men and women are playing in amateur fashion on cheap penny whistles. These have been handed out by the Great Maestro. They can bang out a tune. They think they are good. They feel empowered. They are musicians, of a sort. These are the British people of the 1970’s, those who lived through the charade of the Heath and Wilson administrations. They felt they had control. The truth was vastly different, for they were duped. Neither Wilson nor Heath had the slightest interest in their pathetically scratchy little songs and regarded them with paternalistic disdain. Then, in my mind’s eye I see a long progression of suited men carrying instruments. They enter the hall and take their places, followed at a distance by a portly, gleefully smiling gentleman in tails. A hushed silence falls, he lifts his hands and with a knowing look and a lively bounce he demands the opening chord.
“An die Freude” (Ode to Joy). And what joy then fills his heart. He knew it all along, the full, the complete, the unabridged score.
In later years, for his deception he would be rewarded with a Knighthood.
And I think to myself (not, What a Wonderful World…..but):
“Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben” (Even the worm has been granted sensuality……………….).