Gail Lythgoe is an International Law PhD student in the School of Law. Here, she gives an account of her impressions of the Brexit and Bremain campaigns in the run-up to the EU referendum. As a former and recovering politics addict, this EU referendum has proven interesting to observe at a safe, sometimes frustrating, distance. Are all political campaigns this bad or is there something special about this one? I can’t find it in myself to watch or listen to the majority of the debate as so few are putting across the information and ideas I want to hear and believe important – hence the frustration.
It is close – different polls will place Brexit or Bremain ahead and many of us do not trust polls anyway. The methodology of good polling is both a science and an art and with polls coming out every couple of days I have my doubts about how representative the sampling is. Regardless, I always took my sense of public opinion from what people said on their doorstep or in the street. After the voter registration debacle, and it’s a positive that there are more people intending to vote than in any election, both campaigns will be seeking to understand whether the voter registration “surge” will hurt or hinder them – if what reports say is true about some 300,000 of those registering when the website crashed being under 33, you’d think that would be a boost for the Remain campaign.
The leaders (and I think Bremain’s problem is their overall campaign seems pretty leaderless) and voices in the debate are dominated by the establishment, and the London establishment at that, with their corporate identity branding and carefully rehearsed lines about taking back control or stronger together. It’s been a pretty empty debate. There may be a different debate happening in Scotland and some sensible voices in the media but no one is paying attention. Taking a step back from the fray, the overwhelming (and here I deflate) message from both campaigns is about money (and accusations of distorted statistics), of how much richer you, I or we can be. With either outcome Britain will “survive” in the long run but more importantly for me neither outcome will radically change our economic system.
I deflated further last week when reports appeared of some kind of embarrassing British flotilla on the Thames, with the Remain side being represented by Bob Geldof and his expensive boat – not at all the kind of person or lifestyle to represent the many reasoned Remain voters. (Social media responses provided the only sanity: “Go home, UK, you're drunk.” [@PaulBernalUK]).
Many on the left look at the EU in disgust – the treatment of Greece tipped some of us over the edge. But voting to Leave will not solve that: there are bigger economic forces at work - the Commission and Central Bank are but part of the problem.
An important background to this debate (and for many debates and years to come no doubt) is immigration, migration and refugees. This is another blog for another time, suffice to say I do not take for granted, nor believe I am entitled to, a better life because I happened to be born in Essex not in Kobane or Chibok, nor as one of the 51% of young Romanians living in poverty.
Given this is Scotland it would be remiss of me not to address the idea of the impact of a Brexit outcome on Scotland’s own constitutional future. Around us politicians of different stripes are trying to influence either the EU referendum or their own political project: for the soft unionist British-nat vote, a vote to leave will bring about another indy ref doomsday scenario; for the Scottish-nat vote, leaving may herald Scottish independence. The messaging of the campaigns in Scotland is confused and living in the past of some two years ago.
If you’re still unsure how to vote, maybe this will help: I’m not a huge fan of the way the EU is run. I’m also certainly not a fan of how Britain is run. Ask yourself what really matters. How do you want history to perceive this moment? For me, it is that I don’t want the xenophobic undertones of Brexit to receive any momentum from a win here – the message sent by us voting to leave chills me.
So I voted (as the organised postal voter that I am, but too disheartened to have stuck it in the post box yet) and resolve in the future to take a little more time to influence the way things should be run. Maybe the answer is a pan-EU solidarity reform movement, maybe the answer is an independent Scotland in the EU – maybe there is no right answer, just a belief or a hope that there is some kind of better way. But make no mistake, this is an important vote so please vote - the future, a better way, is up to you.