by Martin Kettle
"So, why has Cameron been put through the wringer? The answer is simply that the anti-European press is appalled that a Conservative government is about to recommend staying in Europe. The cocktail of fury, pomposity and hyperbole that reached a climax in the Daily Mail’s preposterous but historic front-page cry “Who will speak for England?” isn’t practical or rational but visceral.
Behind it, though, is something genuinely significant. For a generation of rightwing Conservatives, press owners, editors and writers, whose post-imperial worldview was hardened into dogmatic Europhobia in the Margaret Thatcher era to which they dream intoxicatedly of returning, the EU referendum is a climactic opportunity to stop all the clocks and return to an imaginary 1940, Daily Mail version. Cameron threatens to deny them that moment.
So it is possible to see this week’s extraordinary scenes on several levels of reality, though they all lead to the same immediate conclusion. Most basically and fundamentally, the EU referendum is about improving the practical ways in which Europe and Britain can make their mutual dependency work best. For this reason alone, Cameron should be supported.
On another level, the referendum is also about the trajectory of the modern Tory party, whose pragmatism remains vulnerable to the anachronistic heresies about British greatness laced with small state liberalism that Thatcher bequeathed to her successors. Even non-Tories have a dog in this fight. Once again, with all the necessary caveats, his name is Cameron."