Thursday, 10 September 2015

Must do better

Already I've had a delivery of the above leaflet. Given that the referendum is two years away I don't see the value in delivering it now. Somebody has wasted a lot of money and effort to make this happen. Inside it's got soft focus stock photos of nurses and policemen. It is the ultimate in political blandness. What could be more pedestrian than the schools 'n' 'ositals riff?

I can see who it appeals to though. I live in the sort of neighbourhood this stuff works on. White Transits, Ford Fiestas, neatly trimmed privet hedges and white people. Lots of white people. The district is largely Tory and Ukip polls well here. Why I live here, god only knows.

As a piece of political propaganda though, it doesn't speak much to my demographic. The cost of living shtick doesn't really set me on fire when my dual fuel bill is less that £20 a week, I'm young and healthy so couldn't give a monkey's about the NHS and the last thing I want to see is more police on the streets.

For sure I'm a pretty poor sample from which to be making any evaluations but single for people with disposable income who are naturally sceptical of populist messages, making big promises about how much extra we can spend, this leaflet will find its rightful place in the bin alongside half a dozen pizza menus. Politicians are always making promises about more schools and hospitals and they never pan out. Why are we to believe them now? This is patronising. 

More than that, this will be the territory on which the remain campaign will seek to distort the debate. The remain campaign will be able to sow just enough seeds of doubt that any fantastical claims about being several hundred pounds better off will be met with scepticism by those who don't know and aren't inclined to find out. There probably exists any number of persuasive works outlining the savings, but it is unlikely they will reach the ears of those in doubt.  

But that doesn't matter. If we manage to win the argument that we will be notionally financially better off, that alone is not going to be the decider. By the time of the referendum, immigration will have slid down the agenda as the EU pumps in billions to keep the crisis off our screens and if our main fall-back position is petty accountancy, then we're on shaky ground.

This may be be a strong message to run with for one sector of the electorate who are already sympathetic but it's that swing vote we should be speaking to. Unless we have something better than dubious statistic cooked down to the nearest third of a tenner, then we will lose the people we need to turn the tide. I don't think we can win any arguments with this.

We definitely don't want to get sucked into long debates about agricultural subsidies and fishing. Few have a sophisticated perception of farming for starters. All I see as an ignorant city dweller is farmers with massive houses and range rovers complaining that they can't make a living from farming. I wouldn't mind their problems.

If we are having this debate the winner is not the one with the most credible figures. It's the ones with the most credible message. The opposition have business leaders, trade associations and experts. We have Ukip. I don't see us walking away from that scrap in one piece. It didn't work in 1975 and it won't work now.

We must must keep in mind that Labour's election message that Britain was a poor and desperate hungry place where pensioners are huddled over bar heaters and children go unfed was an unrealistic portrayal of Britain. Consequently, defying all expectations, the Tories took a majority. Brits are more comfortable and wealthier than most assume. Things are not bad enough to want to rock the boat. A promise of a few quid either way in a much larger debate about the future of the nation is not going to be the decider. In this we should not take the public for fools. 

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