Martine Martin is Senior PA to a London MP and has previously been an assistant to two other Conservative MPs. She was previously known for her online blog, the Tory Humanist.
If the rise and rise of UKIP teaches us anything, it must be to pay more attention to the chasmic disconnect between the obsessive opinions of politicos and the vaguely expressed opinions of general voters.
Nothing particularly new there, of course. The deafening chunter of those who suppose themselves in the know has rarely been of interest to Mr Jones on the street, whose concern du jour is more likely to relate to how packed the bus was this morning or whether he can afford to eat more than once today, than what politician said something stupid.
I’m sorry to say it, but the problem we have right now is a lack of credibility. It’s not specifically a Tory problem; Labour and the Lib Dems have it too. Basically, Nigel Farage could grow a moustache and march on Poland – actually, the media leads me to believe he is about to…? – but Mr Jones will no longer listen. It all feels like a conspiracy anyway; the main parties trying to scare the man on the street into voting for them.
We Tories can nitpick every word Farage and his ilk says, proclaim racism and homophobia, and point out every one of their many inconsistencies until we’re blue in the face (pardon the pun). UKIP’s core message is a very simple one and people are just not interested in the details. We’ve spent decades watching the EU rolling around like a ball from Katamari Damacy, and a lot of people have had enough.
“UKIP MEPs won’t do anything in the European Parliament? Who cares – makes no difference anyway. UKIP Councillors spouting views that would make your grandma blush. Whatever. Voting UKIP here knocked out a Tory Councillor and let Labour in? Well, they’re all the same anyway. Who cares, who cares, who cares.”
We Conservatives aren’t doing anything intrinsically wrong. We’re offering a remarkable chance for the first meaningful referendum on the EU we’ve had since many of us were born. But if you don’t mind my saying, isn’t it all rather vague still?
What are these mystical “powers” we will try to claw back? Won’t these powers appear to be the usual games of politicians feathering their own nests somehow? Isn’t it all pointless anyway, given that 1st November will see the QMV threshold reduced from 71 per cent to 65 per cent, meaning we’ll no longer be able to block decisions against our interests with the help of some of the smaller countries. Hasn’t it got to be a simple IN or OUT, with no shaking it all about?
That’s not the soundbite we’re giving. But UKIP is. Pretty straightforward really.
So while I am immensely proud of our PM for offering this chance at a referendum, we can’t be too surprised that the general population isn’t paying much attention to it. They’ve been messed around before. Delaying it to 2017 furthered the impression that it’s just another party trick. Mr Jones feels wise to them now and he’s not listening.
Honestly, I think it’s time to stop bitching about UKIP’s faults and learn from the simplicity of their message. The people want a clear choice, so let’s stop qualifying everything with caveats, and present it. One simple promise.
In or out, no more, no less. Doesn’t matter which side you favour, just make it clear we can make it happen and we’re not playing games.