I REMEMBER a day when you didn’t have to wake up every morning worrying about Europe. I remember a day when I didn’t have to type the word ‘Europe’ quite so often, and when ‘leave’ was what you did when you wanted to head home, and ‘remain’ was what you did when you made your excuses and chose not go out.
This topic is inescapable because the vote in inescapable. On this morning in two weeks’ time, we will know how the vote has gone; whether we will know what the result means is a different matter altogether.
So here are a few Euro post-it notes touching on David Cameron spoiling my tea, Andy Burnham’s sensible concern, the immigrant question, and that Boris whopper (which one, you may well ask).
BBC Look North is on the whole a friendly affair. However glum the headlines, there is an intimate matiness to this regional news programme. On more nights that we should, we watch while eating our meal on the sofa, in clear defiance of the EU directive that meals should only be taken at horizontal surfaces away from television screens.
So it was a shock to find David Cameron looming large on Look North. There wasn’t even a warning beforehand or anything. You know the sort of thing: the following programme contains scenes of an upsetting nature that might put you off your tea.
Cameron didn’t look comfortable on that sofa. He looked like a man who hadn’t slept properly in weeks, even though he denied this when asked the question. He looked like a man stuck on autocue, a man who had said everything that could possibly be said on why we should remain in Europe. And had then said it all over again a hundred times more. And mostly what he says is: “The economy will be buggered if we leave”, or words to that effect.
Now I don’t like David Cameron one little bit and I don’t appreciate him winning elections. But I think he is right on Europe and hope he secures that particular vote.
The thought of leaving Europe genuinely scares me. So I will be voting to remain. I’ve thought that all the way along and nothing anybody has said, for or against, has made any difference.
I think the Leave lot offer a ragbag collection of tatty aspirations and dodgy assumptions; and I think too many of them believe that leaving would somehow turn the clock back to a glorious past, a past that never existed in the first place. And I think that leaving could give us a legal and contractual headline that would thump away for the next ten years.
Labour’s Andy Burnham had a good line on Newsnight last night. What he said was this: “We have definitely been far too much Hampstead and not enough Hull in recent times and we need to change that. Here we are two weeks away from the very real prospect that Britain will vote for isolation.”
Too much Hampstead and not enough Hull… yes, I like that. It captures the idea that the people who live in perhaps overlooked parts of the country might well decide this vote – and many of them are Labour voters who haven’t been convinced of the party’s official case for remaining in Europe.
Far too many, sadly, may well be influenced by the endless talk of immigrants and immigration. This has been the nastiest aspect of the campaign from the Leave lobby: they know that banging on about foreigners, about open borders, and the possibility of many more to come, plays well with people who somehow feel resentful about having been left behind in modern Britain.
Myths about immigrants taking all the jobs or jumping housing queues are added to the debate like spoonful after spoonful of populist poison.
The Daily Express has a headline in that vein this morning, but I am not sure it works. “MIGRANT SEIZED EVERY 6 MINUTES” the headline shouts. And if you ask me, that is one very unlucky migrant. Fancy being caught that often.
Of course what the headline intends to say that migrants have been caught trying to enter the country at a rate of one every six minutes, a figure conjured from a freedom of information request. Or more properly a freedom to make mischief with information request. Does that statistic mean anything at all? Doesn’t really matter. It’s been put out there to cause unease and alarm, and bolster the Leave case.
Much the same applies to Boris Johnson and that whopper of a figure he has painted on the Leave battle-bus about Britain sending £350m a week to Brussels. Never mind how fully that figure is discredited, it sticks in the public mind because it is being mentioned so often. And if people hear something enough times, they believe it must be true.
Even Boris knows it isn’t true, but if you tell a lie often enough the truth shrugs and walks off.
In last night’s ITV debate, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon defended the benefits of immigration for the UK and ticked Boris off about that misleading graffiti, and good on her for that.
Yes, hopefully one day soon we won’t have to go on about Europe all the bloody time. And that’s because we will have sensibly voted to remain in the EU. That’s certainly where my vote is going.