Please note that this article was written on the 22nd of June, before the EU Referendum result.
The EU Referendum has been the highlight of debate within the United Kingdom. But I cannot wait until it is over. The referendum has divided the entire country, whether you support remaining, leaving, you don’t know, or don’t care, a vast range of opinions have been shown throughout this debate, and unleashed divisions within society.
Not only has the referendum divided society, it has divided our own political culture in a very dangerous way. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party Leader in September 2015 already dividing two factions of the Labour Party, we’re beginning to see a similar two way split within the Conservatives. When Cameron announced his EU Referendum he opened up the floodgate for all of the Eurosceptic MPs within his party. Considering Cameron has a very small majority, he cannot afford to alienate so many of his backbenchers. But never mind them, Cameron has divided his own cabinet, his Justice Secretary, his Northern Ireland Secretary support a Leave vote, and his former Work and Pensions Secretary resigned over Austerity Measures. (But we all knew that it was about Europe and an effort to make Cameron look weak). All of these are key Eurosceptic figures within the Official Vote Leave campaign, led by that guy with the distinctive blond hair, no it’s not The Donald, it’s The Boris.
Boris Johnson has been very clever, for years he has played the buffoon with his love of buses, bikes, classical works and zip lines, but during this referendum the true Boris has been unleashed, and it does not look good for Cameron. The EU Referendum now poses a very serious question, Will Cameron have to resign if the UK votes for a Brexit? Personally I think that he will. The Conservative Party is currently very Pro-Brexit, and we need to remember that this referendum may be a big decision, but we can’t spend five years debating over it, at some point we need to accept the decision that the country makes and resume the democratic process of legislating and running the country. Now David Cameron may have already burned bridges with his majority Eurosceptic party and these bridges could never be rebuilt, and the Conservatives a only have a small majority, so if Cameron cannot effectively pass bills or unify the party then they will need a new leader to effectively run the party. This leader could well be Boris (I’ll pause to let that sink in) and he could be the next Prime Minister.This raises a few red flags in my book, if this is a possibility then can we be certain that the motivations of Cameron and Johnson is not all about the European Union, but in fact their motivation is who will be in No. 10 post referendum. Amber Rudd is one of the remain campaigners who has thought about this. During an EU Referendum debate she took a shot at Boris Johnson, questioning his motives for supporting a Leave vote while discussing Vote Leave’s £350 Million a week claim, she said;
“I fear that the only number Boris is interested in is the one that says No. 10”
Now, does this question the motives of the campaign? Is this the battle of Brexit, or the battle for No. 10.
The possibility of a Tory civil war and uprising prompts a very important question about the Referendum. Why are the two official campaigns from the same party?
This may seem purely trivial for some but it is a very important issue for me and others, and it has been shown throughout the referendum. The Leaders of the main referendum campaigns are both in the Conservative Party, and another prominent leave campaign in UKIP. This means that the main campaigners are both on the right of politics. So the only argument that we are likely to see is a right wing argument over the EU, which alienates the left wing vote. You could argue that Jeremy Corbyn is arguing the left wing argument for Remain, but it is quite hard to tell what his stance is on the EU. But we still have no left wing Leave vote. Due to this we are only seeing one side of the debate, and it can discourage people from voting or even voting for their preferred choice. Just look at Paul Mason, the Guardian columnist and former Newsnight presenter who said that he was in favour of Brexit, but would not vote for it as the left wing argument is not being portrayed by the debate.
“The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax dodging elites and organised crime”
“In Britain I can replace the government, whereas in the EU I cannot. That is the principled leftwing case for Brexit. Now here’s the practical reason to ignore it, in two words, Boris Johnson.”
Excerpts from Paul Mason’s article in The Guardian Opinion;
The leftwing case for Brexit (One Day)
Paul Mason has effectively highlighted the point that I was making. There is someone [Mason] who is in support of a Brexit, but because of the right wing nature of the debate. How can we be certain that every vote that is cast will be the voice of the country, or worse, the nature of the debate could alienate so many voters that a significant percentage of the population may not even vote in the referendum. Leading to a low turnout. This is a genuine concern considering the turnout we usually have for European Politics. So only one side of the debate is being highlighted in the media and this will probably discourage people from voting in the EU Referendum as the debate has not focused on all sides of the cade for remain and the case for leave. But the nature of the debate has been something which also shows the bad nature of this campaign.
This referendum has shown on of the worst debates I have ever seen. First off for most of the debate, it was just economics this, money that, with the odd trade deficit thrown in there. This turned off a lot of people as it seemed that the whole debate was all about boring and complicated economics, not the best thing to motivate voters. I found it hard to find interest in this stage of the debate, as it just seemed to be the politicians bickering amongst themselves. But the dull argument soon ended, and it took a turn for the worse, along came Project Fear.
When Project Fear came along we heard every scare story possible. But what we very rarely heard was a progressive argument for either Leave or Remain. Although they all practically promised that if Leave won then Britain would be hit by a meteor shower, and if Remain won then the apocalypse would be upon us. The public were never fond of this type of debate and all it did was put off more voters. The scare tactics gave the whole campaign a negative view. But it gets much worse, the scare tactics may have had a bad impact, but that was nothing compared to Project Hate.
Project Hate Was mainly focused on the immigration debate, and has been condemned by many sides of the debate. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called out the Former Mayor and leader of the Leave campaign Boris Johnson of hate campaigning during a debate on the BBC.
“You might start off with platitudes saying how wonderful immigration is. But your campaign hasn’t been Project Fear, it’s been Project Hate, as far as immigration is concerned.”
Sadiq Khan during the BBC EU Referendum Debate.
The hate accusations went even further with the release of Nigel Farage’s Breaking Point poster. This was condemned as hateful and racist from both sides of the campaign. The Leave campaigner and Justice Secretary Michael Gove commented on the poster on Marr.
“When I saw that poster I shuddered. I thought it was the wrong thing to do.”
Michael Gove on Marr discussing Farage’s Breaking Point poster
The author of the Harry Potter novels JK Rowling went as far as to accuse Farage of using Nazi Propaganda due to the poster.
The Hate Campaign being used is widely condemned and rightly so, if there is a debate about the future of a country, it can be done without inciting hatred, there is a progressive argument. But we were never going to see that.
And then we get to another nasty side of the debate. The personal nature.
During this campaign we have seen so many personal attacks. It just played more on the politicians bickering amongst themselves argument. During the ITV Debate, Amber Rudd attacked Boris Johnson again.
“Boris is the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the one you want driving you home at the end of the night.”
Amber Rudd to Boris Johnson during the ITV EU Debate
And Boris then attacked the Prime Minister by saying that he has achieved Nothing from his EU reform. These personal attacks did nothing positive for the campaign.
And finally there is the hypocrisy of it all.
During the referendum we have heard so much from so many people, and yet some of it contradicts previous statements. Numerous campaigners from both Leave and Remain have stated that the NHS will benefit from their choice, and this is coming from people who have been damaging the NHS for the past 6 years, we have just seen a Junior Doctors Strike under this Government and yet they care. Ok then, I’ll take that with a few bags of salt. And then the one that hurts me the most, the young vote.
The Prime Minister made a pleasure during the campaign.
“For you, for your family, for the future of your country, vote Remain.”
Prime Minister David Cameron
As a young person who was denied a vote during this referendum well, I was insulted by this, all we’ve heard is how this referendum is so important for future generations as it will impact their future. It’s only logic that they should have a say. But no.
Our ever so wise government decided that this referendum was so important for our young people that they did not deserve a vote, and we had to sit by and listen to how yet again we had to place our future into the hands of older generations.
Well, that’s it, rant over. I’d probably just say that this debate has been interesting. This debate has lasted much longer than 6 months. It’s been heated, vicious and passionate, sad, and pathetic. I think it covers all of the emotional bases, but I just can’t wait until it’s over.