Now with just 19 days to go to the EU Referendum, it seems that both the Remainers and Leavers campaign have finally settled into their respective comfort zones – the economy versus the ‘leap into the dark’ for the former, ‘Let’s get our country back from the twin evils of an unelected elite destroying democracy and the tyranny of the free movement of people principle’ for the latter – and from now until Voting Day the campaign will be consumed with froth, lies and gut feelings.
Two things occur to me.
Firstly, that few on either side are going to emerge from this whole episode with any credit; and secondly, it seems that nobody really has any idea what the outcome will be, least of all the pollsters who, scarred by getting the result of the 2015 General Election badly wrong, are keeping their cards pretty close to their chests.
The UK doesn’t have referenda that often and therefore nobody quite knows how to treat or play them. In contrast general and local elections are relatively easy. You turn out to support the major party you generally regard as your political home, approaching all issues broadly on a ‘them or us’ (us good, them bad) basis … and never the twain shall meet.
Sometimes ‘we’ win, sometimes ‘they’ do. Thereafter, whichever lot gets into government, they invariably get some things wrong and some things right and eventually the electorate gets fed up with them and votes the other lot in [… repeat ad infinitum].
How and why does this happen? Well, partly because – whilst supporters of the party in temporary opposition are redoubling their efforts to win next time, supporters of the party who have been in government (now realising the harsh truth that it is actually no better than the other lot at governing anything) don’t bother to get out and vote with quite the same enthusiasm.
Result? A change of government, which kind of suits both sets of supporters.
Those who have won the election can rejoice in at last getting back into power and having the chance to ‘put things right’ … meanwhile those who have lost the election have gained something just as valuable, viz. for the foreseeable future a permanent ‘open goal’ opportunity to blame everything that goes wrong going forward on the lot now in government … and, of course, the thick and unknowing electorate that was stupid enough to vote them into power.
This EU Referendum has turned ‘normal’ UK politics upside down and brought chaos where there was once a fraught but familiar system and structure. With Tory and Labour grandees (traditionally at each other’s throats) sitting uneasily alongside each other in both the Remain and Leave camps, the electorate’s natural instincts become confused.
When say David Milliband and George Osborne appear on the same platform singing from the same hymn sheet, the average onlooking committed Labour supporter isn’t necessarily going to think “Look, these two senior politicians from both parties are effectively saying the same thing, therefore whatever it is must be right …”
Rather, in my view, he or she – regarding George Osborne as the Devil Incarnate – is going to think “Just what the hell is David Milliband doing, sharing a platform with Satan? He must have either have temporarily lost his marbles and/or got this issue terribly wrong …”
What I’m trying to say is that the experience of seeing respected politicians from your own side in cahoots with their traditional opposition is as likely to sow confusion as it is any persuasion that the argument they are making is sound.
He’s never been able to square the comment he made during his embarrassing project to ‘renegotiate the UK’s position within the EU’ (to the effect that he was confident the UK could/would survive indeed thrive following a Brexit) with his subsequently Referendum campaign line that Remain is so obviously the only way to go that anyone in the Leave camp must be either dishonest, thick, misguided, a fruitcake or a loony.
Here’s a piece by John Harris that appears on the website of The Guardian today, analysing Mr Cameron’s plight – see here – THE GUARDIAN
The other noteworthy aspect of the UK’s predicament is the Remain argument that it is in our interest to at least ‘be at the table’ as the EU goes forward to wherever it is going, i.e. so that we can have a voice, and thereby perhaps influence its direction, hopefully with a view to reforming it for the better.
How does that square with the Prime Minister’s infamous ‘renegotiation attempt’ which (he claims) has secured the UK a special status within the EU that ensures it will never have to accept the Euro and any EU attempts at further integration and/or becoming a federal super-state?
How can any country – still less the UK – think that its voice will be listened to by the EU, still less influence future EU deliberations upon expansion of the Euro and/or further integration/ federalisation, when it has supposedly indicated (and had accepted by all EU countries if Mr Cameron is correct) that it is fundamentally opposed to both on principle?
Here’s another article worthy of being read – this time by Simon Jenkins – which as it happens also appears on the website of The Guardian today, commenting upon the course of the Referendum campaign generally – see here – THE GUARDIAN
[Simon Campion-Brown is unwell].