Wordpretzels, some of you may be aware that in the UK there is a referendum on June 23rd. This is to decide whether we want to stay in the European Union, the largest trading group in the world, or leave and try and go it alone.
This blog isn’t entirely about trying to convince everybody to vote the way I’m going to. Those of you that agree with me will no doubt nod all the way through this barely proofread stream of consciousness whilst those of you that don’t will raise your eyes skywards and decide to completely ignore my sentiments.
Those of you who will be voting but are undecided, hopefully my few words can help.
Firstly, consider the facts. There is only one problem with this. Nobody knows what the facts are. People on both sides will quote lots of facts that they’ve read, but most of it is probably somebody’s opinion or forecasts by those who’ve always got things wrong. Some will spend their time reading newspapers, listening to news reports and trawling the internet to produce ‘facts’ as to why you should vote in /out. Good for them. It just means they’ve read lots of stuff that makes them feel better informed than others. They’re not. Most of them will be affected by confirmation bias: they only agree with those facts that reinforce their views or read them in a way that confirms their already held belief. For example, the smoker who reads that cigarettes will kill 7 out of 10 people, will explain how lucky they are to be in the healthy 3 out of 10. Representatives from both camps will start their sentences with ‘I believe’, ‘I think’ or ‘It’s a widely held view’.
A simple promise in a Conservative Party manifesto to keep the grumbling anti- Common Marketeers happy has resulted in one of the most important decisions the electorate have made in modern times.
The Remain camp tell you that if we are voted out of the EU, we will all be poor as church mice, have no jobs and our arms and legs would fall off. Something like that. Their main argument is that, although everything isn’t perfect, there is time for things to improve. They see it as a long term relationship. Europe is a long term partner or spouse, who doesn’t always do what you want them to do but ultimately the compromises you have to make are worthwhile to maintain harmony. Leaving the EU would be akin to a divorce or splitting up and that rarely ends well. They explain the EU will turn cold, throw all our clothes out of the bedroom window onto the lawn and employ a bloody good lawyer to make sure you pay heavily for your mistake.
The Leave camp explain that the EU is just a huge group of lazy bureaucrats who take all our money and spend it on hotel rooms, hookers, wine, sausages and cheese. They also want to do away with our army, get rid of £5 notes, abolish royalty and make us eat straight bananas. The EU is going to allow billions of immigrants to surge onto our tiny island, take all our benefit money, fill up all the houses, overcrowd schools with their children and steal all the jobs. Their personification of the EU is a rather swarthy, suspicious looking spiv who’s waiting for you to leave the room to steal everything that isn’t screwed down before sending you the bill.
The ‘I believe’, ‘I think’ and ‘It’s a widely held view’ bit.
Those of you that know me well will already know which way I’m going to vote, so what follows is my explanation as to why. Most people that I know will also be voting my way, but that’s hardly a surprise, since you tend to have friends who share your outlook on life. Not all of them though; some are quite a surprise to me, others not so much. But that is all about the variety of life.
Take a quick look at those in favour of remaining in the EU. OK, we’ve got Mr Cameron, his mate George, who got us in this mess in the first place along with Jeremy Hunt, Elizabeth Truss and bankers all of whom I would normally diametrically oppose. But there’s also Eddie Izzard, Bob Geldof, Jeremy Corbyn (ish) and that nice Mr Clegg. On top of this, most of my counterparts, faceache friends,work colleagues those I follow on twitter and family members are definite Remainers.
Whereas the Leave side have some of the most objectionable, obnoxious politicians and public figures known to humankind. It’s like a who’s who of incredible shits: Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Neil and Christine Hamilton, John Redwood and (for political balance) George Galloway. In fact, there’s a great game you can play. Think of a celebrity, then guess which way they’re voting. For example: I typed ‘Katie Hopkins – Remain or Leave?’ guessing it would be out – and scored a point. Some are no brainers. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch David Icke and, errr, Keith Chegwin. Then there’s organisations: UKIP (derr), the BNP, Britain First and The English Defence League.
People that I consider kind, thoughtful people are lining up behind this lot to vote us out.
So what are they offering us? Well, that’s easy. Because nobody knows what would happen if we left the EU, they can promise you everything. It’s a bit like those dodgy ‘blind auctions’ that take place in a back room of a hotel. The auctioneer spends half an hour virtually giving away expensive electrical equipment for a fiver to the plants in the audience before producing a series of black bin liners, which he says contain some surprise electrical goods, all over £200, but he’ll take fifty. People clamour to purchase said bin liners, which are handed out as they leave. By the time they’ve opened it to find a broken generic Walkman and a brick, the auctioneer and his crew have left the building and jumped into their van, engine already running, disappearing into the distance.
Of course, I may be wrong. Do you want to look in the bin liner? Then, best vote leave on 23rd June. But remember, we all have to share your broken Walkman and house brick.
“I want my country back!” shout the most vociferous supporters of the Leave campaign. Back from what? Back to what? Look at this poster:
It appears to be a nation where everybody lives in a sunny, green, pleasant land, with no funny looking foreigners, proper beer, Sunday roasts, bent bananas and working class folk who can be identified by their flat caps and mufflers, diffident nature and cheery disposition with a healthy respect for those in authority.
“That Mr Farage is a proper gent and no mistake. Salt of the earth, he is, calls a spade a spade – ‘course, before I got my country back, I couldn’t say spade. Bloody political correctness, that was. I’m off home to pat the wife on the head, collect my tea and watch ‘Mind Your Language’ on the telly.”
Back to a fantasy version of the mid 20th century, then.
But this is the 21st century, where globalisation means the fluid transportation of people from country to country; large corporations, not a sovereign or to a large extent, a government, decide how you live.
So, who are those that are keen to ‘get their country back’? Three academics from The University of Bristol took polling one step further, by analysing the voting intentions of 60 000 people as collected by YouGov, looking at age, location and qualification level. They then calculated the probability of those people voting Remain or Leave.
The results showed that younger people are more likely to vote Remain. Also, the higher your qualification, the less likely you are to vote Leave. Therefore, if you are young and qualified, living in an area where UKIP are not a force, it’s highly probable you’ll want to stay in Europe. If you’re older, with no or few qualifications in a UKIP friendly area, you’re going to vote out.
It sort of makes sense.
Let’s take it a step further. We could even duplicate the ‘guess the vote’ game. I would hazard a guess that those members of the UK population in a PAYE job that demands a higher level of education will be more socially conscious, more discerning in recognising tabloid propaganda and working alongside colleagues from different cultural backgrounds to vote to remain in the EU.
Those who are not employed in this way: the long term unemployed with lower qualifications; retired people; those with private incomes or are wealthy enough not to have to work for somebody else- will have less opportunity for such interaction and feel their position may be under threat and hence, vote Leave.
Don’t even get me started on the farmers where I live with Leave posters in their fields; living in a village means nothing is a secret and more than one of them receives more than £100 000 in EU subsidies. See whether Boris or Nigel is going to reimburse you, Mr Mcdonald. Then again, he may be Old McDonald, which means he’s voting Leave anyway, probably.
I know that the EU is a bit ropey, but whenever I visit the continent, I’m always glad I’m part of it, that we spent the good part of two decades trying to get in.
But being part of it stops the worst excesses of our politicians. I imagine the jolly old UK coming up with an idea that isn’t that great and the EU, sitting in the corner, Gauloise dangling from its bottom lip, taking a sip of wine and saying, “Non. Don’t be stupid”.
So, that’s my guidance for the EU referendum. You’re either applauding my wonderful insight or think that I’m referendumb. Confirmation bias is a wonderful thing.