I have not really engaged with the referendum campaign.
I feel angered that a short term political fix thought up by a bloke who can’t see more than one move ahead on the political chessboard, and which he appears never to have imagined would lead to an actual vote with actual voters expressing actual opinions on the topic, has taken up so much political energy and time.
It’s a vote I didn’t want called by a Prime Minister I don’t rate about a supranational structure I don’t care enough to be that bothered about.
What is called the “debate” bores me. This is to a large extent due to what I perceive to be a lack of honesty on each side. This seems to have come as a shock to referendum newcomers – those fortunate souls who have managed to avoid the referendum mindset where all public discourse seems set in what could be perpetual binary mode, every issue narrowed down to agreement or disagreement on what we are required to think is a bigger question. But this is what referendums do. Binary choices mean there’s no room for nuance. So in this referendum we have two campaigns consistently overstating their cases – hoping that the lie is big enough to be bought by voters.
On one side there is Project Pollyanna, where with one bound we are free from European regulation, and we will negotiate access to the same trade zone we have just left with no costs, on the terms we want (whoever “we” are) because the people the voters have sent a message to will be so desperate to keep up good relations with us, and will strike a deal wholly beneficial to us with no downsides, and no desire to send messages to other member states that might contemplate departure, just because. And there will be no costs of uncoupling, no costs in legislating to reintroduce those regulations that we don’t want to lose, because this uncoupling will happen as if by magic – where a team of civil servants will make everything fine. And as part of the lies of this campaign figures are mangled, and from the mangled figures vast sums of money saved are committed again and again and again to areas voters like you bother about (Health! Agriculture! Housing!) because the campaign leaders assume no one keeps a running account wondering how many times you can spend the same cash pot. And if you don’t like the Pollyanna campaign along comes a nasty scary man to warn you about foreigners with their funny religions and that every one of them wants to come here, and use your doctor, and live in your town, and take your job.
Meantime, the other side warns that a vote for the other lots will lead to four horsemen to ride out across the countryside and into your town or city. They will carry with them scythes to cut your property prices, and so stoked up with inflamed passions will the populace become that social conflict of a type not promised since the liquidation of a Scottish football team will be inevitable. The defence of the realm will be at risk because our spies won’t be able to carry out work and our military forces will lose their capability to work with other nations under the other treaties they currently use. And your family will lose more from its pocket each week than you make each week.
And as hyperbolic statements are traded people like me look at other issues to help them decide how to vote. But even there I’m at a loss.
I struggle with the identity stuff that seems to bother a lot of people just now and helps determine their support. I can’t get worked up about defining myself based on which bit of rock I’m from, or which bit of rock I live on now, or which bit of rock I want to live on in future. I don’t care. Those questions you get from schools or in the census that demand you tick a box to say whether you or your child fits a particular ethnic group, or how you self-describe based on the particular bit of rock you choose to associate with, cause me a difficulty. And those who provide the forms don’t let you leave them blank because someone somewhere else is tallying things and ticking other boxes determining how people characterise themselves.
And defining yourself by those you love or by your family relationships, or the things you love (“I’m a big fan of the books of John Banville, Nigel Kneale’s television dramas, the films of James Stewart and MGM musicals”) may be enough for you but isn’t going to help determine how to vote (what would the man who didn’t shoot Liberty Valance do?).
And if you’ve voted for three different parties in the last three elections then the fashionable over-association some people’s identity has with a political party isn’t going to help either.
So, how do you vote?
How do you vote when you’re angry about a vote you didn’t want on a topic you don’t care passionately about?