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EU Referendum-watch

My overnight (Saturday into Sunday) trawl of the newspaper websites has revealed reports that Labour MP Chuka Umunna is claiming that if the Referendum outcome is a Brexit victory it will be a win for Far Right ‘dog whistle’ politics; that the latest polls show that the two opposing campaigns are neck-and-neck; and that David Cameron is claiming that state pensions could be at risk if the UK does not vote to Remain.

One thing that has struck me in the last fortnight is that – at least for public consumption – campaigners on both sides have claimed that they are heavily in favour of holding the Referendum, or perhaps their line is that – once it was ordained that one would take place – they will respect the result (if one was being cynical, one might suggest that they could scarcely go on the record saying different, could they?).

It is to their credit that, specifically, George Osborne and Chuka Umunna – both batting for Remain – spoke in these terms during their respective interviews with Andrew Neil.

The irony in this, of course, is the large degree of what has been called ‘Project Fear’ (or ‘scare tactics’) press releases and statements issued, particularly by the Remain side.

It seems to me – in general terms when dealing with human beings – that it is far harder to appeal to the wider public by seeking to scare them into voting a certain way … by which I mean, as opposed to seeking to persuade them over to your point of view by sketching out for them a positive and rosy picture of the potential future sunny uplands and prosperity that will await them should they mark their ‘X’ against your box.

You can call me hopelessly naïve if you wish but, irrespective of the eventual outcome – and I still think that it is too close to call – it seems to me that this has been the Remain camp’s biggest issue/mistake.

Someone, somewhere, has formed the view that – if you know that your cause, rather than that of the opposition’s, is ‘right’ (whatever that means, but for these purposes let’s just say “would be a better outcome for the nation overall in the long term”) and you simply set out the facts … and list all the experts and respected public figures that support your argument … then, as night follows day, you will win the resulting vote, whether that be in an election or a referendum.

It isn’t necessarily true, chaps.

Why is this so? Well, probably for a combination of reasons.

Maybe a significant proportion of people – whom (you would have thought) would naturally see sense and vote for you – won’t even bother to turn out, or for some reason will be unable to do so.

Maybe some or all of major political parties are not actually in tune with the concerns and/or views of their ‘core voters’ at all. In the case of the Labour Party, for example, maybe more of their supporters are concerned about the effects of migration (or just the current scale of it) that the party power-brokers realise.

Maybe there’s also something in the theory that voters are so fed up with the UK political class on principle and generally that – now they’ve been given the opportunity to register a ‘two fingers in the air to the lot of you’ gesture – a lot of them are going to do just that, perhaps in part because (despite all the publicity) they don’t actually regard a Referendum as important as a General Election.

Maybe there’s something in the line that whoever thought of holding a Referendum (David Cameron?) in the first place needs his head examined and, ever since this one was announced and set up, has probably been cursing the day he ever came to that view.

Overnight I’ve even heard that archetypal loony left-wing windbag the Bishop of Hulme Stephen Lowe telling the nation on Radio Five Live’s Stephen Nolan Show that the UK should never have held a Referendum on EU membership anyway – presumably because, in his view, remaining in the EU is far too important an issue for the UK public to be allowed to have a say upon it.

For me, that sort of thinking – and indeed arrogance and condescension – is the very reason why some members of the UK electorate are going to vote for Leave. They’re fed up with the British ‘Establishment’ (and yes, that includes the clergy) taking them for fools and constantly lecturing them about what they should or should not be thinking or doing.

If you are prepared to defend (let’s leave whether or not ‘to the death’ out of it for the moment) the right of every member of society to have a vote or say in the outcome of what passes for your democratic process, you’ve got to be prepared for the occasional – and extremely frustrating – unexpected result or outcome.

Simply because, like it or not, the average member of the public doesn’t necessarily think or act as they’re told, that’s why.

You can make all the arguments you like, pump all the money you have into your propaganda machine, even apparently ‘win’ all the broadcast debates hands-down … and still lose when it comes to the vote.

That’s the Establishment’s biggest problem in this EU Referendum campaign.

I’d hasten to add that I’m not predicting that the ‘outcome’ on 23rd June will be to Leave – just suggesting that it’s why the Remain campaigners have apparently been pressing the panic button recently.


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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