Any hope that the last three days of campaigning before Referendum Day would take on a more serious and factual tone have been quickly dashed. It is business as usual for the campaign managers and spin doctors. They are making a big mistake by treating the referendum like a general election; that is you can get away with a lie because the voters expect politicians to lie. The case brought before the Courts, that the successful candidate for the Orkney and Shetland constituency in 2015 lied, was not successful. There was no doubt that his election campaign claim was untrue, but that did not cut any ice with the Court. There is no law that says candidates must tell the truth. In this referendum both sides have been careful to use the words may or might or could, even on issues that are very clear and factual. In general elections it is very much a competition between future promises, while this referendum is about what has happened with the European Union and what the evidence tells us about where the EU is going. Voters are much better informed, can see through the competing claims and are not swayed by party loyalties.
Information availability is the defining difference between 1975 and 2016. We now have Information and Communication Technology which gives us the ability to check the facts for ourselves, and also to find and retrieve the stored records of the past speeches and statements of those who are trying to influence the way we vote. David Cameron and George Osborne, have in particular, been caught out in this way saying contradictory things. BBC Radio 4 also seem to delight in recovering from their recordings library these historical speeches that highlight their current statements are untrue. With regard to immigration, and the accession of Turkey and the Balkan States to the EU, the Honourable Members have been proved liars. Dave or George, if he succeeds him, have no intention of vetoing their accession or prevent the free movement in to the EU of their citizens; they have already given it the green light. Knowing that they will be uncovered, they must be stupid to think they can get away with it.
There is one claim by the Remainers that really irritates me. That is that Putin and Russia are hoping for the UK to leave the EU. The people making that claim are never challenged to back it up with evidence. In fact Putin and Medev have never been reported to express an opinion, and the Russian Foreign Ministry have stated very clearly that they have no position or concern whatever the outcome of the Referendum. Well they would say that? But, they are conspicuously shy in keeping their own counsel, when every other state and international organisation is telling us what to do.
There is also the vexed question of the amount that we pay to the EU coffers. The Leavers have not clearly explained their claim that we would have £350m per week to allocate as we thought fit. The headline figure is not disputed and we then get a rebate. That rebate is not as much as when Maggie Thatcher negotiated it. Tony Blair negotiated some of it away and a future PM would be free to do the same. The other 27 countries do not like it and the UK is under constant pressure to give up the rebate, so it cannot be taken for granted.
The other big difference is that in 1975 all the print media [excluding the Daily Worker] supported us staying in the EEC. This resulted in a very one-sided debate. Clarke and Heseltine now tell us that they made clear the direction of the EEC towards ever closer political union. I cannot remember that, so the papers must not have been reporting it. In fact the debate was all about the economy and the vote was about an Economic Community, which I voted for. If I had thought it was a vote about political union, I would not have voted to remain. They now say that the UK economy has greatly benefitted and grown since 1973 because of our membership, conveniently ignoring to tell all those born after that date about the crippling burden of austerity in the UK after WW2 that weighed us down due to the national cost and debt of fighting that war. This time the print media are pretty evenly split and the coverage is more balanced and comprehensive. Even so, it is incredible to hear some people saying that they are unclear about the arguments.
The 1975 referendum is a bench mark to compare the conduct of the campaigns and the voting figures with. We will be conducting a post-mortem. For the present here is an indisputable fact. The turnout for the 1975 vote was 64.5% with 67.2% voting to remain in the European Economic Community. That means only 43.37% of the electorate voted to stay in. Fact; 75% of MPs want to remain in the EU. Fact; there are a disproportionate number of Labour and LibDem Peers together with those Tory placemen/women who want to remain in the EU. When we vote to leave it will require legislation and that could be thwarted. Schulz, Tusk and Juncker could come back with an amazing offer to reform and save the EU. The legislators could ignore the wishes of the people and make us vote again. There is nothing in the Referendum law that would prevent it. Faced with such a situation the French would be on the streets rioting. The best we would expect is a protest march and letters to the editor.
Before we even find ourselves in that position, we must anticipate and work towards achieving a double majority in the vote. Not only must there be a majority of those voting to leave, there must also be a majority of the electorate voting to leave. It seems a tall order, especially with the opinion polls showing a close result – but the polls got it wrong last year – and everyone I talk to say they are voting to leave. Perhaps I associate with the rabble who are going to make the ‘wrong choice’ just for the hell of it.
As far as the CDP is concerned this referendum is all about governance and the facts speak for themselves.