Every Friday during the EU referendum campaign, we will be asking our panel of four undecided voters for their verdict on how the previous week’s campaign has gone. Here is their third set of verdicts:
Chris Whiteside is an economist, and a Conservative activist in Cumbria.
Two weeks to go and some on both sides appear determined to make it as hard as possible for me to support them
High point of the week: signs voters are finally engaging in the campaign, with the Electoral Commission suggesting turnout could be above General Election levels
Low point of the week: paranoid attacks on the decision, for which wiser heads in all parties had called, to extend the voter registration deadline by two days after the national website crashed under pressure of traffic on the original last day to register.
However people are going to vote, and there were probably people on each side trying to register, a true democrat should want as many as possible to have the chance.
Defection of the week: Doctor Sarah Wollaston who jumped ship from Leave over their deeply misleading allegation that £350 million a week goes to the EU.
As someone disappointed with both campaigns I was pleased that one of the disingenuous claims in this referendum was seen to cost the side peddling it support. The £350m claim is a serious contender for the dishonour of worst misleading statistic put out by either side in a referendum marked by low standards of truth, and it has not just been on one leaflet but at the centre of the Leave campaign. Even some of my pro-Leave friends think their own side richly deserved flak for it.
Verdict: Remain: because Leave are doing everything they can to push me that way.
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I’ve never been that exercised by the EU, which is the main reason fore being undecided ahead of the referendum. I can’t believe the EU is wholly awful, but nor can it possibly be entirely perfect.
Because of that, I consider a referendum on the subject to be a distraction from governing and doing things that really matter. The one undeniable benefit ought to be that it ends the Tory fascination with arguing about the EU, but even that seems impossible.
This week it’s been Remain’s turn to brief that there is a likelihood that following the referendum the vote will be meaningless and a the vote ignored; Paul has written about the fact that the vote should be respected and acted upon accordingly.
It’s not just the pro-Brussels lot though, it follows weeks of warnings from prominent Brexiteers that a narrow remain win would not be enough. It should be. Any Tories spouting this nonsense should think long and hard. Twitter has many on the left who say that a similar thing about the general election victory last year. Never mind what legitimacy that might lend the SNP for a second referendum if the margin is comparable. If we vote to stay or leave, even by a tiny margin, that is that. Deal with it and focus on other issues.
Sarah Wollaston’s defection means nothing. It might be warming to those in the BSE camp, but I’d bet quite a bit of money that it won’t matter a jot to anyone outside of Westminster (and very little even to many there), though her note to constituents had many very sensible critiques in it, not least about the bogus ￡350m figure and the NHS.
And Leave’s big endorsement this week, Anythony Bamford of JCB. I come from the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire, an area where JCB is a large employer. It matters little that Anthony Bamford has written to staff imploring them to leave. Voting in the areas where he employs most staff are already pro-Brexit.
Overall though, no campaign has won this week. It’s merely a continuation of a dreadful and uninspiring campaign which I already wish was over, whatever the result!
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In 1937 Orwell worried that Britain would become ‘a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes.’
Neither campaign intends to diminish Britain; but the underlying premise of both is that the UK is battling to avoid relegation from the club of significant nations.
The two competing economic cases of both-sides are not mutually exclusive. European Regulations may smother our vital industries; under European Fishery policies even much of the herring would be allocated elsewhere.
At the same time perhaps Brexit would indeed scare our economy to death. Is our choice is between the frying pan and the fire?
Leave’s unanswerable attacks on high immigration were probably very effective. Nevertheless Remain retain their key electoral advantages. If Cameron seems repetitive it is probably because he has sown his crop and is anxiously awaiting signs of growth.
The campaign still largely consists of members of the political elite shouting angrily at acquaintances; the electorate may be beginning to tune in but not with any enthusiasm.
Meanwhile our low productivity and failing education system remain un-discussed. Presently shallow backbenchers will merrily sabotage Cameron. Herring and potato beckon.
Verdict: A win for potato farmers and perhaps to a lesser extent Leave.
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Seems ages ago, but we’d better open with the Cameron/Gove ‘debate’. It was a great reminder that, for some, referendum madness has just begun: both sides are now peddling their ‘finely’-honed lines to the armchair masses. ‘Immigration!’ ‘Economics!’
Gove, as ever, was impressive in his forthright, almost obsessive, focus; Cameron showed similar control, yet with that classic laid-back confidence (so laid back, he’d forgotten to shave. And why was he pronouncing ‘there’ a la Cilla Black?).
The difference is probably why the latter is PM (and good at it), and why the former won’t be his successor (more’s the pity). It’s also why — on a grander scale — the latter will doubtless win this battle.
In terms of content, they said what we expected. And that’s how it’s continued. And will. Easy to predict; hard to listen to. Farage did his sneering (afraid I couldn’t bring myself to watch that in full). And John Major was wheeled out again (or that — I like him too much), and then alongside Blair in Northern Ireland (I’ve nowhere near enough space to comment)!
Sarah Wollaston’s defection might mark a turning point, though seems simply another pointer that Remain will win. Moments of the week included Johnny Mercer’s principle; £350m becoming ingrained in the national consciousness (truth is not necessarily the most important factor, here); the increasingly Cheshired grins of the Remainers-on-the-street (‘Remember, we mustn’t frighten anyone!’); and the TLS’s latest pop-starred antics.
Verdict: Win for neither side — but it’s becoming obvious who’ll end up on top (the real question remains ‘by how much?’).