I am experiencing a sense of deja vu as, after a gap of over forty years, I find myself again on street stalls, for Leave.EU and Grassroots.Out, extolling the need for the UK to leave the EU, or the EEC, as the European project was called in those days. However this time there is a definite difference as, in 1975, we were few in number and regarded as eccentric in wishing to break away, the media was almost entirely against us and those politicians who did speak in favour of leaving, such as Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, were thought of as extremists. Indeed in later years many people told me that the reason they voted to stay in was that they thought anything championed by Powell and Benn must be wrong. Most now admit their mistake.
Things are very changed now. We have as many as a dozen very keen, articulate and confident activists turning up each week. We know that large parts of the press are with us, although not of course the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation, hiding its bias in favour of the EU behind protestations of impartiality, which fool very many fewer people nowadays. Above all the reaction from the public is totally altered. Where we were once treated as a joke we can now be almost overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown by so many people who see us on the street. Some feel so passionately about getting out of the EU that they become almost incoherent with rage and want to vote to leave more than once in our straw poll, although of course, being democrats and honest, we don't let them. We ask passers-by to take part by placing a table tennis ball in a transparent barrel labelled either 'Leave' or 'Remain' and so far the results have been consistent with between seventy and eighty per cent supporting the Leave campaign. We make no claim to this being a scientific survey, although the professional polling industry generally increasingly shows that most of its predictions are about as reliable as Mystic Meg. We certainly don't prevent those who support staying within the EU from voting so, even with a massive margin of error, it looks pretty good for our side. Nevertheless one of our local papers published a poll which said the Tonbridge and Malling constituency was the third most pro EU one in the UK so how that ties in with our results is anybody's guess.
Unfortunately, due no doubt to the pro EU propaganda pumped out by the BBC, and reinforced by the disgusting bias shown by the education system, those we encounter showing the greatest support for the EU tend to be among the younger generation, although this is by no means true of all. Indeed some of our most competent volunteers are themselves young. One can only suspect that a combination of misplaced idealism, gullibility and a lack of truthful information about the EU is probably responsible for this reality. However there is also the fact, unfortunate for democracy, but perhaps good in this instance, that a great many youngsters either do not register to vote, or just don't vote. The older people we speak to, who do want to leave, are quite determined to go to the polling booths on the 23rd June.
Although himself a great democrat, and the man who saved democracy for the world, Churchill is known to have had a somewhat jaundiced view of the electorate and one of his famous quotes is "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter". Although no doubt meant in jest there is a great deal of truth in this statement as anyone who mans street stalls can tell you. We speak to a great many intelligent and concerned people but we also have to endure those whose ignorance is only exceeded by the aggressive manner in which they choose to express it.
At one end of the spectrum are those well meaning citizens who, while supporting our cause, often say that they only voted to join in 1975 because they were voting for a free trade area, not a political union. We could point out that they were actually voting on whether to remain in, not join, as that mendacious charlatan Heath had already taken us in, and that those, such as Powell and Benn, made clear that the founding Treaty of Rome was quite straightforward in its ambition to create a United States of Europe. However we don't, as we have no wish to upset those who are now intending to vote to leave.
Next are those who declare themselves undecided but believe that the EU prevents war, or enables us to better benefit from trade with Europe, or is somehow a benevolent force in the world. Naturally we try to disabuse them of such nonsense and, I am glad to say, frequently succeed, although whether they will revert to their previous beliefs later we can't say.
Then we meet those who, while generally supporting our view say things like "you can't possibly win" or "It's all too late". They often accompany such statements with a pitying or patronising grin, as if we were pathetic types who didn't know that we were wasting our time. They irritate me intensely as defeatist talk is pointless, while it is never too late, it's just that the price to be paid keeps going up. If we listened to these people we might as well scrap our democracy before Brussels gets a chance to do so.
Finally there are the belligerent types who basically know nothing but don't allow their deficiencies to stop them shouting at the top of their voice while ignoring any attempts we make to explain the facts. One unpleasant man picked up some of the leaflets, flung them into my colleague's face, and stormed off yelling that we were xenophobes. Fortunately my colleague, as a retired policeman, is trained not to react as, had it been me, it would not have ended there. Another moron turned up and just bellowed abuse, after which he produced some "Stronger in Europe" leaflets and stood a few yards away thrusting them at passers-by. I am glad to say he did not have much success.
After so many decades of campaigning against UK participation in the European project I know that we are doing all that we can and, if everyone who professes to support our cause were to actually get out and vote, I am sure we shall prevail. I am well aware that this referendum is probably the last chance we have of escaping before the inevitable collapse, brought on by a dysfunctional Euro and the madness of open borders finally destroys the EU, but that might take years and the destruction wrought upon our country in the meantime would be terrible. Indeed should we win we will still face a fight to leave, as Article 50 will be used in an attempt to negate the result, and only a unilateral and unconditional withdrawal will suffice.
For now the fight is on the streets and we will continue to run our stalls until the last moment.