I was in the middle of writing this when the news about Jo Cox’s shooting broke.The official campaigns haven’t re-started yet. One can hope for a kinder politics, but will the leopards change their spots?
Way back in February, Question Time was due to be filmed locally to me in Poole. It was just after the referendum date had been set which was clearly going to dominate the decision, so as part of the application process, you had to say whether you would vote in or out.
My answer was finely balanced. There were good reasons to vote in, but then again there were good reasons to vote out. However my sister in law is from Spain. This would always outweigh every other factor, so when I spoke to the researcher who was dealing with audience participation, I told her I would almost certainly be voting Remain. (Last year, I even discussed writing for the pro-EU side in the campaign.)
Now, I will be voting Remain in spite of the campaign.
I don’t want to be associated with them, because their campaign exemplifies the worst type of politics, a factor I’m sure has contributed to Remain’s poor showing in the polls.
The thing is, many of the tactics used are surprisingly similar to the tactics used by politicians to push HS2 through – the personal attacks, the dodgy statistics and the ‘independent’ reports published by organisations with a vested interest.
These tactics were almost certainly not invented for HS2. But like most people most of the time, I wasn’t taking a detailed look at campaigns for or against specific issues, so I didn’t notice them. However with so many people with a vote on the EU referendum, and no clear party line to adhere to, ordinary people are taking a lot of notice of the Remain campaign’s tactics, and they don’t like them.
I’m not saying of course, that the Leave campaign is a model of perfect civility and pleasantness, but then my alternative to voting Remain was always going to be abstain. I wasn’t going to be out campaigning for them anyway: I wasn’t going to try and persuade people to vote Leave.
The whole of David Cameron’s strategy seemed to be backfiring, with trust in David Cameron himself plummeting in a matter of months as the Remain campaign he is leading gets nastier.
You have the so called independent reports which when you dig a little deeper are from people who are funded, directly or indirectly, from the EU.
You have the personal attacks on the politicians. And anyone who might vote for Brexit is also vilified, by association with the worst villain of the day.
(On the unbelievable end, the BBC didn’t immediately start covering a recent HS2 story, because their correspondent couldn’t believe the figures for HS2 were so bad. They were.)
There has been no vision from the Remain campaign.
Or at least, there is no vision of what staying in the EU could be like if they win. There is a vision from Leave who are perhaps overboard on promising a land of milk and honey – you may not believe they can deliver, but the vision is there. The only vision from Remain is the fire and brimstone they claim would result from a Brexit vote, with Osborne’s vindictive emergency budget a prime example.
When politicians campaign like this on individual policies which they are determined to get through regardless of the merits, it often passes unnoticed by all but a few. But this is just the same on a bigger scale – and with a lot more people looking at it simultaneously.
It’s possible Remain would have won, even without the shooting on Thursday. It’s possible that dreadful event has made enough difference to enough undecided voters. However much of the Remain campaign has been so unpleasant no wonder it has been losing ground.
There might have been a case to make for the EU: perhaps the idea of British skepticsm being needed in the heart of Europe, or perhaps that the sweep of history is towards closer ties. Nobody has made the case.
I’m voting Remain in spite of the campaign, not because of it.