Richard North, 25/01/2016  

There is much merriment at the Sun headline citing Eric Pickles saying: "As a lover of Britain, I say we have to stay in the Eurozone". It would thus appear that Mr Pickles doesn't appreciate that we're not in the eurozone – something of a schoolboy howler. 

However, although the citation is in quotes, it is unlikely that Mr Pickles was responsible for the actual headline. Even I don't think he's that stupid.

But, what should stand out and condemn the man is the repetition of the classic delusion that afflicts most of the tribe. Unable to cope with the fact that it was a Conservative prime minister who first sought entry to the (then) EEC and then another, Edward Heath, who took us in, they have sought to re-write history.

Thus, they have constructed an elaborate sustaining delusion, to the effect that the EEC was originally conceived as a trading association and somehow got waylaid by its political ambitions. This way they can live with themselves, and maintain the illusion that the Conservatives are "eurosceptic".

For Pickles, though, he compounds his own delusion by lauding his current boss. David Cameron, he tells us, has "form" having come striding back into the House of Commons in 2011, "jubilant, having vetoed a European treaty".

"That moment", says Pickles – the non-existent veto of a non-existent treaty, "gave me hope". It made him "realise we could turn around the things that most frustrate us about Europe - the things that saw it grow from a useful trade organisation to a wannabe superstate".

There we have the founding delusion but this is further elaborated by his comment that, "things like the agreement of 'ever-closer union' and all the laws that are foisted on us as a result". Actually, this is beyond delusional. Pickles is doing the Tory "thing" of re-writing history, ignoring the singular fact that "ever-closer union" is the very first sentence of the founding Treaty of Rome.

But it is on the basis of this delusion that the current "renegotiation" myth survives. After all, if the EEC started out as a trade agreement, all we have to do is go over to Brussels and tell those troublesome little continentals that they've lost their way. And once they've been told that by the kindly Brits, they'll realise the error of their ways and return the EU back to its "original" track.

The remarkable thing is that this infantile delusion sustains otherwise sensible and even intelligent politicians. Pickles, in fact, has a reputation for being a shrewd operator but, like so many Tories, when confronted with "Europe", his brains turn to mush.

Only thus could Pickles offer in The Sun such unmitigated eyewash, telling us that, "if David Cameron comes back with that decent deal he has set out to get, I'm going to be campaigning to remain in a reformed Europe". Tragically, there is no arguing with this. We are not dealing with rationality here, but tribalism that brooks no dissent. You are either in the "tribe" or you are not, and the entry price is belief in their founding delusions.

And this is why this referendum has to be people versus the politicians. The European Union has acquired the capability of emasculating national politicians. On this subject, most of them are completely incapable of acting rationally. They are a lost cause.

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