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 second set of verdicts:
Chris Whiteside is an economist, and a Conservative activist in Cumbria.
Plenty of heroes, heroines and villains this week.
Integrity award: the Treasury Select Committee. Having subjected all players to evidence-based scrutiny, they published a report which severely criticised misleading arguments from both sides.
It was unanimous, so two prominent Brexiteer MPs effectively told off Vote Leave for misleading claims and Remainer MPs on the committee signed off criticism of their side, too.
Voters who read through the report won’t get all the answers but at least will be warned of falsehoods to ignore, such as Vote Leave’s misleading claim that Brexit would save £350 million a week (also savaged by the UK Statistics Authority.)
Villains of the week: Joint award, Vote Leave and BSiE for ignoring the committee’s criticisms of their own side while extensively quoting those of their opponents.
Best article: Danny Finkelstein in The Times on his family history and why issues of war and peace are relevant for both sides’ arguments.
I was minded to say Vote Leave won this week because their immigration message appears to have cut through and narrowed the gap, but they’ve a serious strategic problem. The more convincing attempts to “de-risk” the economic side of Brexit have all been variants of the EEA / “Flexcit” / Norway minus Schengen strategy. This is completely incompatible, at least in the short term, with Leave’s policy on immigration. They must resolve this or risk the electorate deciding we can’t believe a word they say.
Verdict: narrow tactical victory for Leave, at a price which may return to bite them.
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With a bit of post-Brexit detail, this week was won by Leave. Leave had spent too long banging on about leaving without a vision of their utopia, they should reveal more in the coming weeks.
Points-based immigration sounds like it will solve all the perceived problems that immigration brings. But, as a friend points out regularly, how conservative is it to believe that the HR needs of the UK are best decided by Whitehall? Perhaps Leave should set out a different potential free-movement area? Though that perhaps isn’t the point of the anti-immigration stance which is what Leave must hope will lead to victory.
Next, Leave should meet Osborne’s challenge and set out the post-Brexit trading relationship they favour with the EU.
On a different note, it’s worth reminding ourselves that we have a Prime Minister who has been more successful than any Tory leader since Thatcher (and if he wins this referendum there would be a debate about if his has been as successful a premiership). So it strikes me as both odd and, quite frankly, daft that an unnamed (how brave!) Tory MP would say that they want to stab Cameron in the front as to “see the expression on his face”, it’s ridiculous to the point of being laughable – read Paul’s or James Wharton’s pieces to see why.
Aside from the silly individual above, Leave seem to be much better this week, but then again that could be because I’m bored of the constant negativity of Remain.
Verdict: Leave win.
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Most European countries are proud of the EU and see it as their future. We view it as a condemned house: a necessary evil at best. Our expectations and needs are divergent from most Europeans. The European Army might be great for the Baltic States, just not for us. Does Brussels have the maturity to recognise and accommodate this divergence?
Leave argue all EU countries will be sucked into any future integration because of the EU’s constitutional framework. They don’t explain why the two-speed Europe embodied by the Euro has become unviable. Steve Hilton’s description of unnoticed routine power-grabs is much more concerning; we can veto treaty change but not the polite momentum of gradual federalisation.
We have to choose between being just inside Europe or just outside. The choice is between two different economic and political deals with our neighbours. I’ve long strongly disliked the EU but now Leave’s job is to convince me that their alternative accommodation with it would be preferable.
Daniel Hannan, consistently eloquent and credible, is a very under-tapped resource for Leave. He ought to be used in a TV debate. His book also deserves your time. Hannan aside, Leave have been disappointing. Boris is in the midst of a failing personality adjustment; he has dropped some of his disarming buffoonery but retained his concerning disregard for accuracy. An alarming proportion of Tory MPs are more interested in staging a Julius Caesar than campaigning. Et tu Nadine?
Verdict: Self-inflicted Leave loss.
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I now understand how non-party-aligned current-affairs obsessives must feel during general election campaigns: what on earth are these people playing at? Do they really think they’re going to win me over like this?
Ok, there have been a few high points this week (not in terms of convincing me — more in the sense of momentarily allaying my growing frustration). For Brexit, I’d include capitalising on the secretive EU Army plans, and finally getting round to announcing a post-referendum immigration strategy rather than just bashing on about Romanian plumbers. (Not that they’ve stopped that.) For Bremain, I’d include impressive stamina on economic forecasting, and continuing to convince the intellectuals.
But I remain referendumed out and increasingly annoyed by the unsettling atmospheric mix between children’s birthday teatime (cakes, funny [hard]hats, and Postman Pat) and suspicious disappointment (divisive opportunism, border-line literature, and nods to rape and racism).
As research for this comment, I attended a Vote Leave rally (sorry, informative public meeting) the other day. (I’ll find a Remain one for next time). I heard great oratory, but didn’t learn anything new; my impression that most of these events simply speak to the converted was unchallenged. Over the past week, I’ve been up to the North and across to the West, and saw hardly a single poster, billboard, or flyer supporting either side. If only the Today Programme were as disengaged…
Verdict: Win for neither side.