When Dean Swift made a modest proposal
, at least he had the sense to publish it anonymously. In congratulating Rotherham social services
, I should perhaps have done the same. Political satire is always a dangerous genre, prone to being misunderstood. There is much more to come on this, though, and we may find Booker lifting the lid on the wider issues next week.
As to the local political implications of this affair, anyone who thinks that this might affect the result of the by-election is dreaming. This is a constituency which delivered the 1945 Labour contestant, William Dobbie, a 23,234 majority over his National Liberal opponent.
In 1997, the dreadful Denis MacShane made better than a 20,000 majority, and even in 2010 he came away with more than a 10,000 vote lead. This is a constituency that would vote for a donkey if it had a red rosette. In fact, it did for several elections running.
Beyond the Farage publicity coup, however, nothing else has changed. The temperature on the EU continues to rise and the forces of darkeness continue to gather.
With the behaviour of the social services, however, we are perhaps getting closer to Churchill's prediction made in June 1945 when he kicked off the general election with a radio broadcast. "No Socialist system can be established", he said, "without a political police".
In comments which raised a storm of protest at the time, he went on to say that, "No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free or violently worded expressions of public discontent".
"They would", he suggested, "have to fall back on some form of Gestapo – no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. This would nip opinion in the bud".
It seems to me that Churchill – like Orwell with his 1984 – was wrong only in terms of his timing, although this modern Socialist state is perhaps a little more subtle in the way it controls opinion.
We can, therefore, only guess at the pressure that was applied to Boris Johnson to get him to change his apparently principled stance on an "in-out" referendum. But, whatever it was, he now favours "a new arrangement" in which the UK could extricate itself from EU laws that were no longer welcome, thus joining the fantasy club in never-never land.
Anyone who seriously believed Johnson was a eurosceptic, though, should have known better. But at least no one can accuse Andrew Rawnsley of the sin of flying a false flag or giving way to Gestapo-like tactics.
Writing in the loss-making Observer, he is joining Andrew Grice in asserting that pro-Europeans in Britain have been cowed, rarely daring to venture the case for continued membership of the EU.
The British, he says, "have yet to be properly confronted with what it would mean to depart from what remains, for all its many problems, the world's largest economic and political alliance". "When they are asked to contemplate the consequences", he says, "I strongly suspect opinion will dramatically shift".
Rawnsley argues that, on on the fundamental question, in or out, the line-up of forces on the side of remaining in the EU includes: the Lib Dems, the Labour party, an important number of senior Conservatives, the vast majority of business and the vast majority of trades unions.
On the side of leaving, there are "a lot of Tories, a few noisy newspapers, hardly any businesses and hardly any trades unionists". That is why he says the outers (he calls us "outists") are unwise to toast victory before the battle has even been properly joined.
And there is the rub. Rawnsley maintains that the battle has not even been properly joined. When it is, Churchill's "political police" will be out in full force, shaping opinion and attempting to control events.
It is thus a good time, I think, for a modest proposal of my own. As eurosceptics, we have the fight of the century on our hands. Instead of playing as amateurs, therefore, I suggest we shape up and start fighting the battle as if we mean to win. And that does not even require us to eat babies.