20 February 2016

EU referendum game on. Now, everyone play nicely…


And so it begins. The UK’s referendum will be held on June the 23rd and British politics – already pretty topsy turvy after the Scottish referendum, the collapse of Ed Miliband and the emergence of Stalinist fruitcake Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader – is now about to go absolutely bonkers. The Scottish referendum experience suggests that in the excitement, there is a high probability that horrible things will be said that cannot be then unsaid later. Old friends will go to war on social media and in public meetings insults will be hurled that we may regret, even if deep down we believe it, have wanted to to say it for ages and find the process weirdly liberating and cathartic. It all threatens to get very nasty indeed. By midday on day one of the referendum, while political obsessives watched TV waiting for the thrill of seeing cabinet ministers do that walking down the street thing, people who have jollied along perfectly happily for years were already fighting on Twitter. Personally, I had already tweeted something unfair and sarcastic about Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary and someone I like. I said that he had declared as running mate of George Osborne and taking the post of Chancellor in an Osborne administration. No, sorry, the lifelong Eurosceptic had declared for In. That is low blow. I’m sure Sajid Javid’s decision was not taken on careerist grounds. Anyway, as for being Osborne’s running mate in the leadership contest, everyone knows that at the last minute Sajid will stitch up George and run for leader himself instead…

Enough, enough… here is my brief guide to playing nicely during the EU referendum:

  1. Outers, remember that those who are for staying in have feelings too. Just because they want to lock the UK forever in the corrupt, tottering EU, an empire so useless that it cannot even get border control and economics (currency) right, does not mean that they are somehow traitors or unpatriotic.
  2. Leavers, don’t make the mistake of thinking all Outers are frothing xenophobes. Quite a few Outers are nice people who even like Europe and go on holiday to the continent. It’s the EU they cannot stand.
  3. To that end, let’s try not to confuse Europe and the EU. We cannot leave Europe. We are in it. Not only is Europe a geographical fact, it also contains wonderful countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy and parts of the Netherlands.
  4. If you don’t think Europe, as opposed to the EU, is terrific you are an ill-educated idiot who cares nothing for art, literature, food, wine, theatre and landscape, although we will try not to point this out.
  5. Throughout the campaign ignore Alex Salmond, which is what Nicola Sturgeon already does. The poor man is addicted to being on television and it is best for all concerned if we simply turn the channel when he comes on, or lobby broadcasters not to allow him on air. It is for his own good, and ours.
  6. When it’s all over, let’s come together and unite around what we can all (or the 85% of us who don’t vote for UKIP) agree on, namely that Nigel Farage should be exiled to a remote Scottish island where he will be given his own pub and allowed to stand behind the bar all day making jokes about Belgium and political madness gone correct.
  7. Do not lose heart. There will be life after the referendum. Once it’s over there’s the US presidential election to look forward to…

Iain Martin is the Editor of CapX