It’s quite sad. As we approach the final days of the referendum campaign, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in how things have turned out.
The debate over the European Union and our place within it is a fascinating one. It allows us to reflect on who we are and what it means to be British (or European) in the 21st Century. And for the politically-minded among us, it’s a great discussion around constitutions, power and how to maintain strong democratic institutions.
Instead the campaign has been dominated by fear, by both sides.
From Leave, it’s been a fear of foreigners. Nigel Farage using a poster of Syrian refugees (which it turns out resembles Nazi propaganda from the 1930s) exploits the suffering of people and the fear that people have towards them.
And from Remain: fear over the economic fallout, while an absolutely legitimate concern, has been amplified to the point that we have now been threatened with a Brexit budget by the Chancellor if we don’t vote in. The fear over the prospect of a recession has actually increased the likelihood of a recession if we leave.
Things could have been much better than this.
It’s easy to stoke fear. Stories about waves of immigrants or mass unemployment are powerful narratives that can root deeply in people’s heads. And let’s be honest: it can be quite an effective tactic at motivating turnout.
What’s hard is having a reasoned, rational discussion about this.
For these last few days, what I hope we can do is turn our attention away from ugly, fear politics and turn our attention towards the positive aspects of the campaign. The conversations on doorsteps, the chats in bars, and the talks we have amongst friends.
Let’s discuss the debate on our own terms, instead of the terms that the media narrative has set out for us.
And let’s be honest about our relationship with the EU. It’s not perfect, it’s not broken either. But however we decide to move forward, whether staying in or going it alone, let’s do so with open eyes and reasoned thought.