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EU Referendum-watch (again)

With just over a week to go to the vote on the EU Referendum there is a certain inevitability about a number of aspects. Both sides are now frenetically reviewing their campaign strategies on a daily basis and accordingly deploying different spokespeople peddling different ‘stories’ in order to maximise their prospective votes. It seems to me not only that pundits and presenters on television and radio are exhibiting a degree of impending excitement coupled with knowing relief that the campaigning will soon be over, but that – annoyingly for all those ‘out on the stump’ – the ordinary voting public actually began becoming a bit bored with the whole process about ten days ago and are now virtually immune to warnings and blandishments.

It’s all getting a bit messy.

cameron4The Remain camp are wrestling with the fact that David Cameron – heavily associated with ‘Project Fear’ – is now perceived as ‘damaged goods’ and likely to turn people off as often as on whenever he makes a public appearance. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Remain campaign strategists would dearly love to remove him from sight if they could but this close to D-Day, as Prime Minister, he feels that he has the responsibility to get out there and lead, e.g. by appearing on the Marr Show last Sunday, which unfortunately he does with only middling results. Once the public gains the impression of its own bat – or perhaps it is suggested to them by the media and accepted – that someone is ‘toxic’ (to coin a description), there’s a self-fulfilling prophesy to the outcome and Mr Cameron has thus effectively become the EU Referendum’s ‘Chris Evans of Top Gear’.

As I always understood it, to a large extent a victory for the Remain camp would depend upon Labour delivering its voters to the right box on the ballot paper. Given a number of factors – not least Jeremy Corbyn’s ambivalent views on the EU and reluctance to be seen on the same stage as any Tory, the splits between both him and the parliamentary party MPs and between those who are for Remain and Leave, and of course the fact that the scale of immigration to the UK is a concern for many traditional Labour voters – Labour haven’t been doing too well on this front. Hence yesterday’s initiative to send Gordon Brown in to bat with a major speech and a herd of female MPs out on the campaign trail in a battle bus (women Labour supporters having been identified as a group unlikely to bother to vote on the Referendum).

Meanwhile the Leavers also seem to have run out of ideas. It seems to me that their inability to sketch out in detail how economic and financial matters would ‘work’ after a Brexit has effectively conceded victory to Remain on that topic. Switching their focus to immigration worked for a while – largely because Remain were immediately on the back foot because, like it or not, ‘free movement of people’ was an absolute condition of EU membership – but since the latest annual figure for net UK migration (330,000 if I’ve got it correct) included a figure of 188,000 from non-EU countries, even the Leavers had some difficulty convincing anyone that their plan to introduce an Australian-style points system to filter those the UK wanted (out from those it didn’t) was going to get net UK migration down below 80,000 – or was it 50,000? – in total.

The bulk of we are left with now is just daily servings from both camps about which celebrity, or business, or at least in some sense ‘important people’, are the latest to ‘come out’ in their support.

In short, the campaign has reached the point where it’s like a balloon that has already ‘popped’.

TuskOvernight UK newspaper websites have been reporting that EU Council president Donald Tusk has warned that a Brexit could trigger the end of Western political civilisation.

Like US President Obama, Tusk seems to have mistakenly assumed that – simply because of who they are – advice from respected world statesmen and women of supposed substance will automatically have an influence upon voters in individual countries with whom they have no connection.

Au contraire, Mr Tusk. I strongly suspect that your ‘helpful intervention’ will have precisely zip effect upon the voting intentions of UK voters. It will simply be added to the growing pile of Project Fear items issued by both sides that will be ignored and mocked, along with David Cameron’s ‘pensioners will lose their pensions’ over the weekend and George Osborne’s ‘Brexit is for the rich who can afford recessions’ which was also reported overnight.

About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts