HERE is an unlikely piece of advice: if you want some sense about Europe, have a look at the front page of a newspaper.
Not any paper mind, as a fair few are splattered with prejudice and nonsense. No, direct your gaze at the i newspaper. I confess to only looking online but it’s early and I haven’t left the house yet. Beneath a montage of front pages from other newspapers, the headline says: “The media won’t decide this vote.” Below are two small words: “You decide.”
Inside the newspaper’s editor, Oliver Duff, introduces the first in a promised series of editions encouraging its readers to think for themselves.
Here is some of what he says…
“Whatever happens on 23 June, it won’t be the i wot won it.
Some media like the sound of their own voice before a big vote, trying to claim afterwards that they swung the result.
Here at i we have a rather shocking opinion: the public are capable of making up their own minds…”
How shocking: straight-forward and sensible words on a debate that has been riddled with unpleasantness, exaggeration and twisted thought. You pays your money and all that. But anyone who chooses to base their vote on shouty advice from the Express or Mail only has themselves to blame.
I think the problem can be boiled down to one word: politics. We let politicians decide how to conduct the debate. And that was a big mistake.
Admittedly there wasn’t any other way. But politics isn’t well suited to allowing people to form a sensible and informed view of a situation. No, politics is confrontational and argumentative. This is a good thing at times. But not this time.
We are being asked to make a hugely important decision by watching politicians (mostly male, mostly white) going red in the face as they trade insults.
Anyone still undecided this late in the day is likely to be confused. Truths are hard to find on this matter, but here is one: no one knows anything for sure. Both sides are so resolute in their absolute rightness; so certain their scenario is what will happen. Yet how do they know? They don’t.
It’s too late now to wonder if there might have been another way: an unbiased sort of accountancy of the available facts and possible outcomes. If you vote Leave these might be the consequences; if you vote Remain this is what will probably happen.
Okay it’s not lively and it’s not fun and it’s not how we do things in this country. But is all this shouting getting us anywhere?
Last night’s TV event was a non-debating debate between David Cameron and Nigel Farage on ITV. Cameron has declined any face-to-face encounters so far, partly because as he doesn’t want voters to see Tories shouting at each other.
I didn’t see the debate as I was watching a play on an allotment. Perhaps more of us should sit in the sunshine and watch plays. It was certainly a nice way to spend the evening.
Instead I watched a BBC news report on their website. This revealed nothing unsurprising. Farage did his usual prickly act, laying into everyone around him. For a man who dishes it out, Farage soon plays the wounded victim card, saying it’s all the fault of the Establishment (quite something from a public school investment banker).
He had a hard time from members of the audience for his unpleasant views on race and told one such woman to “calm down there” when she criticised comments he’d made about the possibility of Cologne-style sex attacks in Britain.
He said that was “a tiddly issue” in the EU referendum campaign. It happens that Nigel is right here. What he does, what he always does, is take something small or hardly relevant and inflate it into something huge. His whole political machinery is based round building a wall from tiddly issues, brick by unpleasant brick.
Sadly, I have just destroyed my own argument for a calm debate here. But really – how can anyone remain unruffled in the presence of that man?
Cameron faced hostility from an audience member who complained that immigration had left him without a GP and unable to climb the housing ladder, and finding the place where he had grown up had turned into a “no-go zone”.
Was that true or just a typical spot of blaming the others among us? You decide, as the i newspaper would have it.
Cameron replied that there were good and bad ways of controlling immigration (has he worked out which one he’s opting for yet?). And he got in a pre-prepared jab at Farage: “We don’t want to be little England, we want to be Great Britain.”
A predictable jibe, but not a bad one.