On June 23 British voters face the question: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ It’s a vote that’s too close to call.
Opinion polls currently indicate a fairly even split on that stay/go choice with a significant percentage still undecided.
Until February, Remain had a consistent lead over the Leave campaign, retaining between 55 and 51 per cent support in the referendum’s poll of polls. However, since then the Leave campaign has managed to gain more support, increasing their odds of winning.
Eighteen percent of the 3,000 respondents polled by market research firm Opinium and the European Centre for Research in Electoral Psychology at the London School of Economics recently said they did not know how they would vote in the referendum.
The poll found up to 30 per cent of voters could make up or change their mind on how to vote in the last week of the campaign, and half of them could do so on polling day itself.
Andrew Hawkins, chairman and founder of the polling firm ComRes, said the referendum was unusually unpredictable. ‘I think there are two angles to this’, he said. ‘One is the straight proportion of people who say they don’t know (how to vote), and the other is the proportion of people who say they may change their mind. And when you add both of those together you realise that the race is still definitely wide open.’
Financial experts seeking to prepare for the economic fall-out from the vote agree: ‘It’s like tossing a coin’, Dieter Wemmer, Chief Financial Officer of Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, said. ‘If the outcome is 50/50, it’s a pure bet on which side to prepare for.’
Speaking of betting, many believe that looking at the bookies’ odds is a better guide than the opinion polls, the reason being that the polls got it badly wrong on the UK General Election result, and they also point to anomalies between the telephone and online results in current polls. They further argue that the bookies have a more direct motivation for accurate prediction – they stand to lose a lot of cash if they are wrong! Current odds are in the main 4/9 for Remain and 7/4 for Leave.
That means if you bet £100 on a Remain victory, you would make £44.44 if they won. If you bet £100 on Leave and they took the day, you would get make £175. So the ‘smart money’ is on a Remain vote at present.
The tragic death of Jo Cox, MP has also introduced another layer of unpredictability.
Campaigning in the Referendum was suspended nationwide for several days. The effect of this so late in the campaign was likely detrimental to the Leave campaign, which had been building momentum and support.
According to the Sunday Mirror, attitudes towards the referendum also shifted as news of the murder of Mrs Cox broke.
A Survation poll for The Mail on Sunday also found Remain had opened up a three-point lead since the killing.
Supporters of the Remain campaign have seized on it to promote their own agenda. Spiked Online rightly spoke of ‘ghouls in the media and political classes who, with nauseating speed, and a remarkable lack of shame, have sought to exploit Cox’s death for political gain; who swiftly blamed the murder on the Brexit lobby (Cox was pro-EU and pro-migration, and it’s suspected her killer was anti both those things); and who have marshalled Cox’s death to the cause of sanitising political speech and insisting that certain views no longer be openly expressed.’
That’s not hyperbole. They cite the columnists who couldn’t wait to engage in shroud-waving. The usual suspects, like The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, just couldn’t wait to associate the killing with a ‘noxious brew’ created by the leaders of Leave!
After reading that, I turned to my e-mail inbox to find a message from the campaigning group Avaaz:
Jo Cox was a shining light of love in the world, a passionate supporter of immigrants and other vulnerable people, and a friend to the Avaaz team. Today we honour her.
Then tomorrow we can start passionately pursuing what she’d have wanted: to unite to fight with love against the hatred that killed her. That’s going to take all of us.
This Sunday afternoon (tomorrow) Avaaz members all over the UK can hit the phones to encourage as many people as possible to raise their voice for unity and against fear and division, in the vote on Thursday.
So the choice for those still undecided is clear: vote for hate or love; stand for unity and Jo, or with disunity and her killer. Let’s just pass out black and white hats so we know who’s who. Politics doesn’t have to be complicated.
Aside from campaigning for Love and Remain, if we do still favour Brexit, we must watch our language. Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate warns us that ‘Those who stoop low, who use the language of hate and stir the fires of resentment in order to win votes, need to accept responsibility for what they do. Whilst the killer is alone to blame for his killing, we as a society need to think about our actions too.’
Gordon Brown, writing in The Guardian, sermonises, ‘But as Jo would have been the first to tell us, we have been witnessing a downward spiral in our political culture. The business of politics has become more about the exploitation of fears than the advancement of hope. Temperate language has given way to the intemperate. And where there is latent prejudice, we have seen it exploited to breed intolerance – and then too often intolerance has descended into hate.’
Spectator columnist Alex Massie has a similar theme:
Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.
The attack dogs were soon unleashed. Nigel Farage was asked on Sunday by ITV’s Robert Peston whether, following the murder of Cox, he felt responsible for stoking hatred. He was challenged on a poster showing Syrians wanting to enter the UK. Mr Farage stood his ground and rejected criticism of the poster and warned of terrorists entering Europe pretending to be refugees, insisting Britain would be ‘safer taking back control’. He told the interviewer that he was a victim of hatred. Still, the link between criticising immigration policy and the murder of Jo Cox had been forged.
The Guardian even suggested that there was a problem with the anger of the public toward corruption among our political class: ‘The drum-beat of indiscriminate rage against “the Westminster establishment”, which has been rumbling in the background since the MPs’ expenses scandal, and is frequently amplified by social media, is something else that cannot be ignored.’
So let’s be careful how we discuss immigration, the political class, and the way we have been betrayed and marginalised by them. Let’s ignore their corruption, greed, and graft. Let’s censor ourselves.
It would also be churlish and partisan to question whether the ‘Left’ has any responsibility for creating hatred with its rhetoric. Slogans like ‘Smash the Nazis’ should be ignored.
Those who promote themes like generalised White blood guilt for slavery just don’t think about their effect. If some nut decided to take a slogan literally or feel hatred because of it, well…no one’s fault really, right? Those on the ‘Right’, though, should constrain their words by testing them against the possibility that a mentally unstable person might misinterpret them and do something bad. Limiting, true, but better safe than sorry!
The ‘climate of fear’ argument is a strategy often used by the ‘Left’, not just in Britain but internationally. The American Left used it after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Gifford in Tucson in 2011.
The most recent example of this came after the Orlando attack, when some claimed that the murders were a result of politicians opposing gay marriage! It’s designed to silence opposition and create a climate of fear – fear of expressing yourself and fear of being falsely blamed for the terrible actions of others. It’s an insidious strategy which, if successful, would chill democratic debate.
We will know soon enough which way this knife-edge referendum will go. Whatever the result of appeals for ‘unity’, Britain is divided and many feel excluded, alienated, and angry. The political class is held in general contempt. Refusing to talk about the way ordinary folk have been betrayed by the political class will not make the problem or the deep sense of grievance go away. In fact, it could make it worse.