A couple of months ago, I set out a view that the real tragedy of the European referendum was that it was being conducted as a proxy war for the Tory succession. As the debate has gone on (and on) there is very little reason to change this view. It is a tragedy that the level of debate in this country has been debased to allow the egotism of Nadine Dorries to be projected into the public domain once more. For those of us who are of a certain age, the echoes of the efforts of the headbanging right to bring down John Major are irresistible.
The standard of debate has been depressingly banal. Partly this is the consequences of the media believing that the public are incapable of engaging with any difficult concepts without interpretation or the interpolation of some ego-driven commentator, and also a deliberate ploy from those who would rather not have their arguments held up to scrutiny. There is a pattern where an argument for remaining in the EU, often strongly evidenced and based around reputable organisations is dismissed by the leave campaigners with seldom even an effort on the part of their interlocutor to explore whether their critique has any foundation.
To be sceptical about Europe is to want to remain. The binary pseudo-choice being offered by the leave campaign is not sceptical, it is not rational and it is self-evidently against the national interest. Their more deranged fellow-travellers on the right are happy enough to resort to social media to cry "traitor" in the direction of the remain campaign, but they are the real rats and racists, scuttling around in the half-light without the capability of engagement with the possibility of a diverse, nuanced remain campaign which is united behind the need to stay, but not with the likely future direction of the European Union.
Probing the leave campaign's arguments provides scant evidence of anything beyond the faux nostalgia peddled by UKIP for when Britain was "great" or an assertion that everything will be in some way better, isolated economically and politically from our current allies both within the EU and beyond. Where there is intelligent life, for example from the left and green perspective that bemoans some of the EU's activity, this is drowned out beneath a nasty xenophobia and a knee-jerk dismissal of the little people who dare to question their betters. There are respectable arguments for opposing some or all EU manifestations, but the ragbag of cretinism does not permit their articulation.
Besides, many of these arguments are best carried out in the context of whether the UK would be better off fighting a corner from within the EU or pressed up against the window, watching and self-deluding. Nobody in the main remain campaign has set out a clear articulation that the current EU model is not the only way forward, but the emergence of other views and organisations does at least create the possibility for debate. In the end, staying in is necessary to even contemplate influencing the reform of an institution where an engaged, committed UK would find allies.
The clinching argument has to be that leaving now is a one-off choice. If, at some unspecified date in the future, national interest reverted to being part of the organisation, this would not be either credible or feasible. Yet if there is no reform and no progress within the EU then there is the possibility that the UK, or even a group of like-minded members, could consider its position a decade or two hence. The stupidity of the Brexit campaign is in not recognising that the damage their hubris could inflict would not be retrievable - and since they cannot even provide the basis of a post-EU Britain (even at a high level outline) with any degree of intellectual credibility, they deserve all the abuse that they claim is being dished out to them.
This brings me to the outbreak of civil war within the Tory party. This weekend has seen the far right not merely waving their rattles but throwing them out of the pram. To watch the traitors and bastards queueing up to settle scores with Cameron would be amusing if the consequences of their vanity and delusion would not be so great for the rest of us, collateral damage in the war of warped egos. What some of them want is the kind of rapprochement between UKIP and the Tory right which would split the party - and which risks self-immolation as part of the Johnson preening machine. The anachronistic electoral system may well see to that.
An encouraging sign, maybe, that the bloodbath post-referendum will be internal to the Tories, but when viewed from the wider perspective this is short-term schadenfreude. Cameron has delivered all that the bastards claimed they wanted, but they're still out for his blood. The paralysis and toxic demise of the Tory party is a risk that could unbalance politics yet further - there is now a challenge for the centre and left of politics to coalesce in such a way that the saner and more long-term Tories can accept and merge into. The bitter hinterlands are best left to those whose egomania is matched by their inability to accept that they could ever be wrong - and it is a sincerely-held hope that their racism and two-faced lies are given the two fingers that they deserve.