Bernard Ingham: A very British coup against the elites

Our new leaders will need to show more humility and acquire some ambition for Britain.

David and Samantha Cameron return to 10 Downing Street after the PM announced his intention to quit.

MY cup runneth over. My granddaughter qualified as a doctor. My grandson looked set for a good Cambridge degree. I came out of hospital after another check up for pneumonia. And the UK voted to leave the European Union. On such days is joy unconfined created.

The fundamental cause for rejoicing is how the ordinary Briton, imbued with the principles of democracy, rejected the concentrated misery-mongering of the so-called elites and voted for freedom and democratic control. A typically bloodless British coup.

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Now some very serious questions have to be asked of our national leadership who never really thought we would vote to leave. How could they get it so wrong?

Only untypical London, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to remain. The rest, including Wales, said “Leave” by anything from 51.8 per cent in the South East to 59.3 per cent in the West Midlands.

My native Calderdale’s 56-44 for leaving was one in the eye for the pretentious intellectuals and totalitarians who have colonised my home town, Hebden Bridge.

It was also short shrift for Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, who is anxious to become the kept woman of Europe instead of the English whom she hates.

But why were more than half the Cabinet, Tory Party and Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, Nationalists and Greens along with phalanxes of totally unreliable economists, industrialists and academics at odds with popular opinion?

The answer comes in three related parts. First, they are defeatist. It was Margaret Thatcher, not the Common Market, that rescued a Britain that was going downhill 40 years ago thanks to power-mad union leaders and abysmally weak employers.

That defeatism told Margaret Thatcher: “Oh you can’t do that, they won’t allow it.” In their eyes we were – and are still – not safe as an independent nation, although you now have to be blind to the EU’s stubborn refusal to reform, even though it is manifestly failing.

The second part is that the authority of our political leaders has been grievously undermined by Europe. They are wont to make promises they cannot fulfil, such as David Cameron’s pledges on immigration, because of Europe’s sway.

The seeming pointlessness of voting when most of our laws are made secretly in Brussels has been reflected in the turnout at successive elections.

Now, in a referendum when their vote would carry weight, more than 72 per cent went to the poll.

But – and this is the greatest tragedy of all – our defeatist elitists rendered incredible by the EU remain arrogant, dismissive of ordinary folks’ concern about immigration – Gordon Brown even called one a bigot – and generally inclined to tell us what is good for us. They think that only they can manage our adaptation to the new world, apparently oblivious that they are managing the decline of a once great nation.

When David Cameron and possibly Jeremy Corbyn are replaced, and the current daft ploys to thwart the referendum majority die down, our new leaders need to show more humility and acquire some ambition for Britain.

It would also help if Lord (Charles) Powell, my colleague in No 10 as Thatcher’s foreign affairs secretary, abandoned his nonsense that Mrs Thatcher would never have led us out of Europe. It is true that she never proposed Brexit during her 11 years in No 10 and saw referenda as a tool of dictatorships.

But it ignores all that has happened since her demise in 1990 by which time she had had enough of the EU – Black Wednesday when we were thrown out of the ERM; the Maastricht treaty which we know she did not think to be in Britain’s interest; the Lisbon treaty greatly extending the EU’s integrationist powers; and Tony Blair’s open door to migrants.

Lady Thatcher died in 2013 and suffered from dementia for a decade before that. Who knows what she would have done had she remained PM? But I bet she would have sought fundamental reform of an EU acting against the public interest, with exit clearly on the cards if it delivered nothing. She would never have deserted the ordinary people who gave her three election victories.

She was one of them and, on my recommendation, spoke to them regularly in set interviews through local, regional and national media.

May our leaders never again forget that people count in a proper democracy – unlike in the EU’s bureaucracy.