Written by Politics

The EU Referendum

Clearly these are my personal views. Now read on…

We’re now just under two weeks out from probably the most important vote I’ve had in my lifetime – far more important than any single General Election. We can change a Government after five years (or sooner). The effects of this vote last a lifetime.

But frankly, this whole campaign is a mess.

While I’m 100% certain of the way I’ll be voting – I’m voting REMAIN – this is despite rather than because of what’s going on around this dreadful campaign from all sides.

Media Coverage

You can divide media coverage into two – the regulated and unregulated.

Television and radio have strict impartiality rules, and that means that both sides of any argument need to be aired. And their reach is still the most important. No – it’s not the internet, even though you personally use Facebook and Twitter a lot.

Unfortunately, what “impartiality” means is that there’ll be a story on, say, the Treasury releasing a report suggesting that GDP or house prices will fall if Britain leaves the EU. This news has to be instantly countered by Vote Leave who say they won’t.

Who should you believe? You’ve just heard one campaign say one thing will happen, and the other campaign say, no it won’t. I need someone to tell me which is true – or at least which is likelier.

We’ve seen this behaviour happen repeatedly during this campaign, and the net result is a completely disengaged population who see the whole thing as some kind of political point-scoring rather than something that will directly effect their lives.

Meanwhile the printed press has essentially made up its mind… almost. The left-leaning papers are all Vote Remain while the right leaning ones (the majority) seem to all be Vote Leave. I say that with the small proviso that while these right-leaning papers seem to have adopted a Leave modus operandi, they may just change their mind on the eve of the vote. We’ll see.

There’s social media and the internet of course. But that’s not much better. There’s mostly a lot of singing to the choir, as people just visit sites that are friendly to their point of view – if they’ve managed to acquire one!

So we’re left largely uninformed. This is despite the fact that there isn’t a division of opinion on some of these subjects any more than there is on climate change. Pretending that there are two viewpoints is absurd.

For example, in higher education research, there’s a fairly unanimous view that the EU is a good thing – it invests lots of money that we wouldn’t otherwise have. But in the fishing industry, the view is pretty unanimously against the EU because of quotas and rights. Trying to balance everything is a nonsense.

Scaremongering

While in some regards this is legitimate tactic, it feels like even the simplest things have been massively over-egged. Reports are published showing dire financial consequences if we don’t remain. Other reports are published showing that most of the population of Turkey is apparently moving here within weeks, regardless of whether Turkey could ever become a full EU member.

This scares people off voting. Neither views are remotely realistic. If people would just come out and speak a bit more honestly without the exaggeration, that might actually work better.

Political Point-scoring and Conservative Infighting

Look, I realise that for political reporters, this referendum is all their Christmases at once, with people calling one another out-and-out liars, and bizarre alliances between people like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. But can we get beyond all of this and look at the actual implications of leaving or remaining?

I have no idea about how the Conservative Party will pull together once we come out the other side of this referendum but right now, I don’t care. “Blue on blue” attacks are not important! What is important is everything prior to June 23, not afterwards.

We’ve seen political infighting before – cf Labour – and we’ll see it again. But park all that for now. Concentrate on what leaving or remaining actually means for the public at large.

Irrelevance

Last weekend a boatload of Albanian migrants had to be rescued in the English Channel when the boat that they were being smuggled across in began taking on water. Cue lot of discussion about Brexit. But it’s all a bit pointless. Albania isn’t in the EU, and isn’t likely to be anytime soon. The people charged with smuggling the migrants are actually British, and similar things are likely to continue regardless of our membership within the EU.

That raises other issues, but let’s not pretend the two are related. Let’s stay on point.

An Ignorant Public

All of this boils down to an utterly ill-informed public. It’s scary when you hear that someone will be voting to leave because they think that it’ll be quicker for them at customs when they come back from holiday (no big “EU” queue, although it rather ignores the super-slow non-EU citizens queue they’ll face on the way out), or because they’re annoyed that we haven’t won Eurovision recently (nor have we entered a decent song, but hey…).

In the end, I worry that turnout will be disappointingly low. Seemingly a lot of people have registered to vote in the last few days. And it’s not too late as I type. You have until tomorrow!

I’ll reiterate. This is the most important vote in my life with profound implications on vast amounts of what we do and how we live, were we to leave the EU.

But last night on the news, I heard a political reporter say: “I think people may well just decide they can’t believe what’s being said, so they’ll make up their own mind – and maybe that’s not all bad because in the end, that’s what everyone will have to do.”

I’m sorry – but that’s useless. If one side or another is lying then why do we have journalists, if not to dig out the truth and tell us?

In many respects we are being asked to decide on something with which we simply haven’t been furnished with the facts. They are there, but it takes a ridiculous amount of digging to get to them. That doesn’t make the choice easy for anyone.