Tag Archives: Demosthenes

The EU referendum – a rancid political debate

I’ve been trying and failing to write about the EU referendum campaign from a comms perspective; hoping to make sense of the messages we’re getting, the choices on offer, the strategy and tactics each side are deploying. I’ve given up. There is no logical sense to this campaign which seems to be based on an abandonment of respect for the truth, a descent into scare-mongering and deceit on all sides and racist dog-whistles as blatant as air-raid sirens.

We seem to be in a place where logical argument, respect for the facts, a willingness to listen to another person’s point of view and engage with it seriously no longer play any part. We’re an awfully long way from the last time our membership of Europe was debated:

television broadcasts were used by both campaigns, like party political broadcasts during general elections…. The “Yes” campaign advertisements were thought to be much more effective, showing their speakers listening to and answering people’s concerns

I dug that out the last time we’re were facing  a referendum choice Nick Clegg’s ill-fated attempt to reform the voting system.  I said then I felt insulted by the low level of debate on offer.  Now it feels like the age of Demosthenes (who, the internet tells me, provided the perfect summary of this campaign)

A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true

No-one’s mind can have been changed by this debate. Those who hated Europe at the outset have had their prejudices confirmed, so have those of us who see a better future for the UK inside the EU.  I’m with Robert Harris:

I  don’t think I have ever felt more depressed about the future of the country.