The UK Prime Minister’s supposed ‘deal’ has always been a political distraction with potentially dangerous consequences. The IN campaign should do their best to ignore it, argues James English.
It’s important not to lose track of what the EU Referendum is really all about.
The referendum is not, really, about the success or relative failure of Cameron’s deal. Brexit does not, really, hinge on how we define a change the relationship between the UK and the EU.
The question is far broader than this.
Difficult as it may be for those who know the ways of Brussels and Westminster, acquired through professional pursuits or intrigue; it’s also far less complicated too.
The referendum is about articulating the benefits of EU membership to the UK population.
The entire UK population. In a vote.
So, folk who work in Westminster, many of whom deal, day in, day out, with issues of political significance, will have a say.
But so will those who don’t work in politics.
And so will those outside Westminster. In Warrington. In Worcester. In Wales.
Many of whom do not spend day, after day, deliberating the intricacies of UK politics, let alone that of the EU.
This is not a referendum for politicos to fuss over. Maybe tweet about. Perhaps host a roundtable. And then come to a collective, painstaking, conclusion.
This is a referendum in the style of a General Election. For the people to decide.
And that’s the way it should be. But it’s also what makes it so dangerous.
If I were to lead a strategy meeting for the IN campaign, I’d start by asking everyone to forget everything they know about the workings of Westminster. And Brussels.
Too much understanding of the issue at hand merely fuels a misunderstanding of this referendum. Too much knowledge of Brussels, or Westminster, is a hindrance. It leads to fretting over detail, like Cameron’s deal.
The IN campaign has to get back to basics, and fast. Understanding of Westminster and Brussels within the UK is simply not at the level which current campaigning assumes it to be.
It’s not the fault of the electorate, of course. People simply don’t have the time to understand the implications of migration policy change, or the desire to learn about the evolution of treaty change.
The issues that matter are broader, and often simpler, than this.
Three things need to be done within the IN campaign. The second is the most important.
Devise 5 top-line, broad, messages. Why should we remain in the EU? There are thousands of reasons; from prosperity, to security, to promoting a broad vision of social justice. Pick 5.
Take a map of the UK. Divide it into regions. Stress how each region benefits from the EU. There is so much to talk about! Every voter needs to understand the local and regional implications of EU membership. The schools, places of work and recreational facilities that rely, or have relied on, EU funding. These need to be emphasised above all.
And pick someone to drive this at a local level. To push the message. Nationally, this has been decided. But locally? MEP’s are by far the best fit. They have the regional oversight. They should spearhead the local effort. Alongside MP’s, and other figures, as and when it is appropriate, they can drive the campaign forward. And, if done well, they can dispel some of the cynicism that exists in the UK over their own role, and standing, too in the process.
People talk of Cameron’s gamble on the EU referendum. The gamble is not holding the referendum itself.
Rather, it’s failing to understand the nature of it.
And if you think this piece is over-simplistic. Well it is, of course. It doesn’t have any stats, for example.
Forgive me though.
But there’s a referendum to win in under 6 months time. There’s no time to fret over the detail.