The Octopus of Possibility

The danger to Wales of a “corrupt octopus” loomed large in the mind of Lord Pearson of Rannoch when he gazed across the waters of Cardiff Bay last year.

The then-Ukip leader compared the European Union to a tentacled beast that would swallow Wales whole.

He had the demeanour of a lone knight on a tired steed who could see the rival forces of a mighty empire marshalling on the horizon.

For years, many people have been sceptical about the chances of the single currency flourishing but to identify as a euro-sceptic has been as fashionable as wearing a union jack shell-suit.

But, today, these foes of Brussels detect a change in the zeitgeist. Prophets of doom who were once dismissed as old codgers are now honoured as visionary seers.

They sense that a moment of wild opportunity to rewrite the UK’s relationship with the EU has arrived.

Just in case nobody could think of what powers should be clawed back the EU, the Taxpayers’ Alliance were on the march this week, distributing a 29-page shopping list.

Daniel Hannan, the zealous and articulate Conservative MEP, has a wish-list of his own for this Christmas season: “We should repatriate control over essentially domestic matters, including defence, immigration, regional policy, social policy, employment law, human rights, criminal justice, agriculture, taxation, fisheries and financial services.”

He considers it “utterly ludicrous” that ministers are reluctant to press for changes because they do not want to stage a referendum.

Mr Hannan works in the bowels of Lord Pearson’s octopus and – like a bazooka-wielding Jonah – he wants to blast his way out of the monster.

We have a generation of Conservative activists who are itching for action. Labour kept them out of office from 1997 to 2010; the electorate denied them a majority last year; the presence of the Lib Dems in Government gives a yellow hue to their blue-sky plans; an SNP Scot is in power in Edinburgh who threatens to shatter the UK; Labour are still in power in Wales; and the empty coffers at the Treasury mean the military is cut and big capital projects are impossible.

But on the subject of Europe there is the chance, it seems, to embrace a possibility more spectacular than anything that has existed in their wildest dreams.

If David Cameron disappoints this tribe he will battle scores of angry foes for the remainder of his premiership but pursuing their goals will mean abandoning political certainties, straining the coalition to the point of rupture and taking a debt-laden nation on a voyage into the unknown just when a hurricane is blowing.

A Thursday Column.

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