As the EU referendum campaign enters it's final 10 days, are Cameron, Osborne and the other Tories campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union about to take a back seat?
Throughout the EU referendum campaign, those Tories, who are for remaining in the EU, have been totally incapable of making their case, by highlighting the overwhelming positives of EU membership. Instead, they resort their default setting-negativity. They seem to believe, it is more effective to terrify people into voting to remain in the EU, by predicting post Brexit apocalypse. Today David Cameron sank to new depths in his campaign of fear. Today, he directly threatened vulnerable pensioners, who rely on the meagre state pension to live. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Prime minister said " leaving Europe would mean some invidious choices" and "One area we’d be forced to look at is pensions". Truly, deplorable, despicable tactics by any standard. Not that we in Scotland, are in the slightest bit surprised, we've seen and heard it all before, in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Project Fear redux.
There have been suggestions in parts of the media, that as the campaign enters the final stretch, Cameron & Co, are set to take a back seat, with the Labour Party taking the reins. Concerns were raised last week, that many Labour voters had no clear idea of where the party stands in relation to the EU referendum. In reality, there is a perception among the wider working class, that those who are campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, are simply not addressing their concerns and fears about immigration. This plays directly into the hands of those who would have the UK leave the EU. Indeed, whenever immigration takes centre stage in the campaign, there appears to be a corresponding increase in support for Brexit. More, much more, needs to be done, to promote the positives of immigration and to counter the anti-immigration messages put out by the Vote leave and Leave.EU. There also needs to be a concerted effort to dispel the notion that a post Brexit UK would be much better placed to control immigration. Similarly, there is work to do to promote the positive impact that EU regulations have had on workers rights. It makes sense that this message, when directed at working class voters, in England at least, needs primarily to come from the Labour Party. Very few working class voters after all, would believe that the Tory's, are genuinely concerned with workers rights.
The whole EU referendum campaign, has turned out to be something of a dogs breakfast. This stems from the fact that, on both sides of the argument, there are disparate voices, campaigning for the same things, in quite different ways from one another. Whilst the official remain campaign is Britain Stronger in Europe, there are also, Labour in for Britain and Conservatives In. Additionally there are the Liberal Democrats, who's official stance is pro-EU and in Scotland, the SNP, who are strongly in favour of remaining within the EU. None of the other pro-EU parties, are willing, understandably, to share a platform with the Tories. Labour and the Liberal Democrats suffered badly at the ballot box, partly for standing shoulder to shoulder, with the Tories, in the Better Together campaign, during the Scottish independence referendum. It is a mistake they are all too keen not to repeat. On the other side of the fence, we have the official campaign, Vote Leave, led primarily by anti-EU Tories like Michael Gove. Then there is Leave.EU, who are perhaps keener to play to peoples fears over immigration, than their counterparts at Vote Leave. What Vote Leave and Leave.EU have in common however, is that they are both vociferously peddling the £350 million per week myth and share an arguably delusional belief that the worlds major trading Blocs will be falling over each other in the race to sign up for trade deals with a post Brexit UK.
It is hard to see where things might go from here. Neither side of the argument has the singular focus enjoyed by Yes Scotland and Better Together in the 2014. The problem for those campaigning to remain, is that a purely positive campaign, highlighting the benefits of EU membership, might not be enticing enough, especially in comparison to the post Brexit 'Fantasy Island' promised by those who would have us out of the EU. Equally, it is possible that to continue with an overly negative campaign, turns off as many voters as it terrifies into voting to remain. At the same time, there are serious credibility issues with some of the wilder claims made by those campaigning for Brexit, that need to be exploited further. The polls have shown, by and large, a fairly consistent lead for remain and the occasional lead for leave. How accurate the polls are however, is a matter of conjecture, as there is little or nothing by way of recent precedent at a UK level, to compare and contrast with. It may well be the great undecided, those who admit to being none the wiser, having listened to and watched the numerous debate that have been broadcast on radio and television, who ultimately decide the outcome.
Finally, let us not forget the all important Elephant in the room-turnout. Despite a concerted, last minute effort to get people registered to vote, we have no way of knowing just how many of us will actually make it to the polling booths, come the 23rd of June. This is a worry, a very great worry indeed.