[The scene is a tutor's study, belonging to the distinguished political scientist Dr Victor Bogdanovitch, which overlooks Radcliffe Square in Oxford. There is a knock at the door, which is already ajar.]
Dr Bogdanovitch: [wakes up] Hello? Ah, Mr Cameron, yes, come in, come in. Sit you down. Tea? Or something stronger? Nothing, really? Very well. Let's get started, shall we?
Thank you for your interesting submission with its, if you don't mind my saying, rather literal title: [reads] "Why the Government – was that capital G strictly necessary? – why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK."
Well, I suppose this passes what some of my younger colleagues apparently call the "Ronseal test". You have not kept the reader in any unnecessary suspense as to your eventual conclusion, Mr Cameron, I'll say that for you!
There follows a fairly standard-issue marketing document with several stock photos of predictably uplifting scenes – men at work on shiny machines, a family of Asian origin relaxing in the kitchen, a hopeful young couple with babe in arms. It all looks a bit like a brochure designed to sell insurance policies, Mr Cameron. Perhaps that was the idea.
But as to the text... Well here, Mr Cameron, I'm afraid I am going to have to take issue with you. You state, indeed, you have instructed the printer to place the words in bold type – that the UK has secured a "special status" in a "reformed EU". [Dr Bogdanovitch looks over the top of his spectacles] Really, Mr Cameron? Special status? A reformed EU? Were I to telephone distinguished colleagues in various seats of learning around the continent right now do you think, Mr Cameron, that any of them would accept those descriptions? The answer, I think, is non, nein, oxi.
You claim, as 'new developments', characteristics of our membership of the EU which were not really in any doubt. Joining the euro or becoming part of any supposed further European political integration were not on the agenda in any case. We should not, should we, take credit for the sun rising in the morning, eh Mr Cameron?
I note with pleasure that, as far as the economy is concerned, you no longer claim that three million jobs could go were the UK to leave the EU. You now merely state that "over three million jobs are linked to exports to the EU", a less specific but doubtless less inaccurate suggestion.
Your points about the value of the single market and the difficulty of regaining access to it are well made.
But now then: just as the heart was lifting at this modest and sensible statement of the obvious comes another low blow: "The Government has negotiated a deal that will make our benefits system less of a draw for EU citizens in the future."
Oh dear. Oh dearie me, Mr Cameron. Well might the gargoyles outside my window here pull a face at that! How many EU citizens, do you fancy, have ever been drawn to these isles on account of possible future benefits payments? Half a dozen, Mr Cameron? A score? Very, very few, I think we can agree, just between ourselves. A new and higher minimum – sorry, "living" – wage, however: that might draw a few more people here. But that is a good thing, is it not? Why else would you have decided, correctly, to raise the minimum wage had workers at the bottom end of the pay scale not been suffering undue hardship? How awkward not to be able to trumpet one of your greatest policy successes at this time.
As to your conclusions, well, Mr Cameron, I have to say that broadly I am with you. Remaining in the EU, you say, "is the way to protect jobs, provide security and strengthen the UK's economy for every family in this country." Indeed. The sheer hassle involved in withdrawing and renegotiating terms with 27 countries seems to me to be not worth the candle. As dear old Kenneth Williams might have said: "What's the bleedin' point?!"
My few quibbles aside I think I can accept this submission, Mr Cameron. I can hardly give you a leading alpha for this paper. I'm afraid it is pretty much a straight beta piece of work. Query plus.
Cheer up. You know, I expect that on June 23rd you are probably going to get the result that you want, more or less. Close, but it's all going to be OK. I think. Chillax.
[The tutorial ends. The student departs.]
Stefan Stern is a business, management and politics writer. He is director of the High Pay Centre, and a visiting professor at Cass Business School.