The EU debate has got out of hand and is full of wild claims

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

I trust no politician will ever again have the temerity to accuse the British Press of exaggeration and gratuitous sensationalism.

I say this with increasing wonder each day, as I read the latest wild generalisation and counter-claim made by both sides in the EU in-out referendum campaign. These ludicrous ravings make any deviation by the British press from the straight and narrow seem tame by comparison.

It all seems reminiscent of that well-known song: ‘I can do anything better than you. No you can’t. Yes I can, yes I can.’

The whole debate seems to have got completely out of hand.

On the one hand, for instance, you have the Prime Minister warning of the threat of the outbreak of war if the UK leaves the EU. While on the other, you have Boris Johnson saying that under EU rules, bananas can be sold only in bunches of two or three. If that is the case, then hundreds of greengrocers and supermarkets up and down the land are breaking the law on a daily basis.

Aside from all the hyperbole, there lies the awkward fact that if Brexit win the vote on June 23, then the Prime Minister will have to negotiate the terms of departure with Brussels. I would say that would be virtually impossible for a man who is so committed to staying in.

That is why I suspect there may have to be, if these circumstances arise, a change in the occupant of 10, Downing Street.

No wonder Boris Johnson’s eyes are glinting. But my money would not be on him, but on Michael Gove to replace David Cameron, were that to happen.

• I see that Labour front-bencher Andy Burnham has decided that Westminster is not really relevant, so he is making a bid to become the first Mayor of Greater Manchester.

I try to avoid delving into the hypothetical, but I do just wonder whether he would have reached this view had he won the Labour leadership election last year. After all, he was the favourite at one point. I doubt it. After all he would have become Leader of the Opposition, with a real chance of becoming Prime Minister.

But his campaign was so pallid and feeble - like those of two other contenders Yvette Cooper and someone called Liz Kendall, that the “no-hoper” left winger Jeremy Corbyn wiped the floor with them and took the crown.

Burnham will have to put up a much better show if he is to become the Panjandrum of Manchester. And the fact that he is a Liverpudlian and an ardent supporter of Everton Football Club won’t appeal to many Mancunians.

He is plainly a man who wants to be at the top of the tree. His form so far won’t get him past the lower branches unless he speedily (to mix the metaphor) pulls his socks up.

• To the outside world it must seem harsh, bordering on cruel, that we require a 90-year-old woman to undergo the fatiguing task of presiding over the State Opening of Parliament, wearing a heavy gown and carrying heavy jewellery, plus the crown, and then reading the Queen’s Speech on top of that.

But perhaps ‘require’ is the wrong word. It is more likely that the Monarch herself insists on doing the job - and who is to argue with that? But there surely must come a time when she must step down from this arduous duty.

Perhaps next time, Prince Charles might try to convince her of that. “Mummy,” he should say, “Can I have a go now?”

Let’s see if that works.

• There is no danger of old-world courtesies disappearing from Parliament so long as Jacob Rees-Mogg remains an MP. With his impeccable manners, Rees-Mogg, is not for nothing known as the Member for the 18th century.

He is also probably the most droll MP at Westminster. When asked if he took exercise, he said: “Yes. I occasionally raise my right arm to hail a taxi.”

And when TV’s David Dimbleby last year teased him about being an Old Etonian, Rees-Mogg hit back: “I was at school with your son.” Touche!