Just as the Greeks wanted to stay in the eurozone and reconfigure their debt, so too the Brits want to stay in the European Union and change the rules. Did we learn anything from the Greek marathon? Er, no: 57% of us want to ‘stay in the EU and reform it from within’.
But here’s the interesting bit: only 29% think staying in the EU will give the UK more influence in the world, whereas 56% don’t believe it makes any difference whether we stay or go…and within that 56%, 42% (about 4 out of 5) don’t think we’ll gain any economic advantage either.
So what we’re left with here is the odd spectacle of 57% preferring to stay in the Union, but the vast majority of them NOT basing the decision on geopolitical influence or personal prosperity.
Previously on In or Out, either fear or expected advantage have been at the core of persuasion by each side. Bombarded with a dizzying array of stats, not surprisingly most voters probably wind up deciding on gut feel…and as the pro-media vastly outweigh the antis, we wind up with this, I suspect, very misleading figure of 57%.
But behind that headline figure, I think these data results show that real commitment to the EU isn’t that strong. They sort of “feel OK” about being inside a can of worms, on the grounds (perhaps) that it might be even worse outside.
I would make three points here:
1. I know UKipper Sloggers are expecting this, but it remains my belief that Nigel Farage will get in the way of persuading the ‘sort of feel OK’ people of reasons to quit the EU that go beyond being a swivel-eyed pub bore. At worst, he should be relegated to cheering up the faithful; at best, we need to see mainstreamers like Kate Hoey, Owen Paterson and Graham Stringer leading the debate for OUT. But he’s already jumped the gun and tried to appoint himself as the focal point of the campaign; this does not bode well.
2. I feel more and more that spelling out just how unpleasant, illegal, neo-fascist and malign the Brussels-am-Berlin axis is should be the central focus of the OUT campaign. The bizarre fantasy that the EC and its allies are harmless is an easy target for people who know what they’re about. The sense that things would be even worse outside the EU should be demolished with one recurrent observation: it is the worst-performing economic bloc in the world. That’s it.
3. The credibility of the IN campaign should be ridiculed from Day 1 – again, on one consistent basis: the EU will not be open to any substantive reform. Greece exists as the obvious example here, and others may pop out of the rotten woodwork before the referendum. But the major blow-after-blow emphasis will have to be on the Government’s failure to extract any real change from the Eunatics. Luckily, it already looks like Eurogrope and the EC (with Merkel ever-present) will play into the OUT campaign’s hands here.
Osborne has been given a severe bum’s-rush in Paris during his first sally-forth to test the waters. And there is no way the EU will ever give way on freedom of citizen movement across the Union. Regardless of the latest polling data, this is one referendum the OUTers will have to lose. Campaign simplicity plus the development of events should make it very difficult for Camerlot to get his majority.
Sadly, Farage has not made a good start. Two days ago, he ‘slammed’ Eurosceptic Tories in a speech in London: “Stop moaning, stop bitching and get off your backsides and help us win this referendum,” he cajoled gently.
Nigel is very much a chap for the slamming: it’s his speciality. To be entirely accurate, being a controlling bombast, it’s the only way he can operate. It won’t be enough to win over the ‘sort of OK’ apathy. We shall see whether UKip’s founder can make that leap. I have my doubts.