The next morning, bowled a juicy half volley on his LBC phone-in by Caron Lindsay, he named the three things he most wanted to change about the European Union as:
- More trade;
- Scrap the expensive monthly trek to Strasbourg;
- Less red tape for small businesses.
Could not Nick have talked about further expanding the EU or further entrenching European values? About greater co-operation or understanding between nations. About anything a little less technocratic?
This is not just a criticism of Nick. It is typical of the debate on British membership of the EU that those in favour of our continued membership should unable to offer moving arguments in favour of it. The same is true of those who defend the United Kingdom in the debate over Scottish independence.
In both the debates the chief tactic of the status quo has been to co-opt the heads of big companies to say they are opposed to change.
Prosperity matters, but this comes dangerously close to the argument: "A lot of very important people believe we should not change, who are you to disagree?" And that is not an argument any Liberal should entertain, nor one likely to prove persuasive in an age when so many are disaffected with their leaders.
Besides, it is obvious that an independent Scotland would be able to survive quite comfortably outside the United Kingdom, as would the UK outside the EU.
Arguing in favour of the status quo may inevitably make it harder to arouse the passions, but we badly need more positive arguments than we are hearing at the moment.