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EU: it’s a generation game says Toynbee

18 January, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Polly Toynbee

COLUMNIST Polly Toynbee speaks in the same commanding way as she writes – staccato, pacey and colourful.

Refreshingly brief – she spoke for no more than 20 minutes at the Town Hall on Thursday –making it clear we would be better off if we stayed in the EU but “politically” one has to accept the people’s verdict and be prepared to leave.

We should become like “Norway” – partly in, partly out – and “strategically” accept that we have to wait for the next generation to realise it is better to be in than be out of the EU.

I had dropped in at a debate organised by the Camden Town and Primrose Hill branch of the Labour Party – along with 60 others, mostly “remainers” and local, though a few appeared to be from out of town.

Ably chaired by Tom Selwyn, the meeting whizzed along, with the audience, mainly middle-aged upwards, cultured, and sounding like Guardian readers, with nine out of 10, it seemed, remainers joining in the debate – and, judging by the ripple of applause, not too happy with Jeremy Corbyn who was urged to take a more principled pro-EU stand.

Toynbee thought Mrs May and her cohorts were engaging in “fantasy politics” and that Cameron due to his “carelessness” in holding the referendum was the worst “prime minster in her lifetime”.

There were no dissident “leave” voices to be heard in the chamber. If there had been they may well have been shouted down. Though someone piped up – perhaps presciently – that it was all well and good waiting for the next generation to wake up, but how did we know the EU would be worth re-joining?

Not such a dystopian thought if you think of the illiberal authoritarianism of eastern Europe and growing clamour for a more militarised EU.

However, Councillor Lazzaro Pietragnoli beat the drum for the EU, and said Labour should campaign on it in the coming local elections.

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