I CAN’T be certain what the private polling on the EU referendum is telling Number 10, but I suspect the news isn’t good.
How else can you explain the outbreak of near hysteria that has gripped the Remain camp in recent days?
The most telling example came this week when the Prime Minister, apparently in all seriousness, suggested that leaving the EU would lead to genocide and the outbreak of the Third World War.
Could this possibly be the same David Cameron who was insisting just three months ago that we had nothing to fear from quitting the EU and he was “ruling nothing out”?
And if he really believes that leaving the EU will lead to Armageddon and the End Times, isn’t it hugely irresponsible of him to offer us a referendum in the first place?
Cameron is a canny political operator and normally manages to portray himself as moderate and measured, so for him to start ranting in these apocalyptic terms something must have badly spooked him.
It is hard to disagree with Boris Johnson’s verdict on Cameron’s speech – “totally demented”.
Cameron’s comments this week are the most extreme example of overheated rhetoric, but he is not alone.
In recent weeks, we have had former Labour leader Ed Miliband warning that leaving the EU will destroy the planet, and Conservative MP Anna Soubry preposterously claiming our exports will be reduced to “almost absolutely zero”.
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve meanwhile claimed that British expats would “become illegal immigrants overnight”. Apparently he’s never heard of the 1969 Vienna Convention.
One of my favourites came from our dim bulb Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who laughably claimed the EU was a good thing for young people. That had me snorting tea down my nose. Has she seen the youth unemployment figures in the Eurozone? The EU has in fact destroyed the life chances of an entire generation.
Oh yes – and house prices will plummet, you won’t be able to buy French Champagne or German cars, the NHS and the Premier League will be destroyed, you will be banned from holidaying in Europe and the price of socks will rocket by 14 per cent (I am not making any of these up!).
All these outlandish statements are being made by normally intelligent people. So what on earth is going on?
Could it be that despite the intervention of all the establishment big guns from Barack Obama to Goldman Sachs to the CBI supporting the EU, the polls are stubbornly refusing to turn as expected? Is there more than just a whiff of panic in the air?
The problem is the more ridiculous the claims, the wider the credibility gap grows between the rhetoric and reality – and people are not as stupid as the Remain camp seems to believe.
The Leave camp, meanwhile, can point to real and present dangers, instead of imaginary bogeymen.
The EU’s share of global trade is dropping like a stone and economic growth is stagnant.
Greece is on the brink of yet another meltdown that could trigger the collapse of the euro, and looking at the state of its debt-riddled banks, Italy won’t be far behind.
Uncontrolled immigration has seen the erection of razor wire fences across the continent, riots in the streets and the rise of parties of the far right and far left.
Turkey is on a fast track for EU membership, giving more than 75 million desperately poor Turks the right to live, work and claim benefits in any of the EU’s 28 states – including Britain.
And as the entire project collapses around their ears the bureaucrats in Brussels are busying themselves with more important matters – like deciding what kettles and toasters we should be allowed to buy.
Like a lot of people, I hoped that the Government would talk to us as adults and the EU debate would be based on facts. Instead we are treated like children fed a diet of risible scare stories.
And now, after David Cameron has cranked up Project Fear to gas mark 11, it is difficult to see where the Remain camp can go from here – and there is still almost six weeks to go!
A plague of flesh eating rats coming up from the sewers to devour us in our beds perhaps? On present form, I wouldn’t put it past them.