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You'll Miss the Referendum Campaign... No, Really

23/06/2016 13:39 | Updated 23 June 2016

As I write this, I am already feeling the bump of disappointment. I just voted. And, having voted before, I realise this means we've come to the end of the campaign. Only the results still to go. By the time you read this, they might well already be in. And then, sigh, it's back to the same-old-same-old. The Referendum, like a general election campaign, turned the news into a mini-series. But all good things come to an end. You might be thinking that what happens next is going to be even more compelling, but sadly, it won't. Here's why...

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If Remain wins, then nothing has changed. Substantively, the news media will simmer down on the business desks, the data visualisations, the fact checking and so on. The graphics and economics will get dialled back a few notches. Back to sound bites and reporting as normal. The aftershocks of a Remain vote will be relegated to snippets, skirmishes between the victorious political mainstream and the rebels. Maybe some minor players will quit, or lose their rags and blame Cameron, or Corbyn on prime time. Something like that. But it's a 3-minute piece between the latest dreary economic news and the refugee crisis. As for the likes of Boris and Gove, they'll be folded back into the Tory party because a public execution, although great viewing, will do the government more harm than good.

If Leave wins there will be a lot more excitement for the journalists, but it will be a damp squib in the long run. The sheer scale of the changes implied by leaving will be dwarfed by the huge task of making it into a news story. We're talking about armies of civil servants and lawyers unpicking decades of trade regulations and such. Some of it, for example if the victors want to lift carbon emissions regulations or abolish laws against child labour, will spin out into a few days of decent coverage but mostly the divorce proceedings will be less Kramer Vs. Kramer and more like listening to the shipping forecasts on Radio 4.

Whatever happens with the result, there will be no reckoning. No final showdown. No epic clash between Boris and Cameron. Farage's chip on the shoulder will still be there, that's right Nigel, you're still not a proper politician like the big boys. On the opposition benches, there will be much talk of a healthy debate and democracy, of the British people speaking and having spoke. Everyone will claim a win, be it a moral victory, an actual victory or indeed, a vote that proves how strong the losing side is and how it was right that we gave them a chance to make their opinions known, even though they'll get nothing for it.

And for us, the people who have wrestled with the issues, tried to grasp the finer points, made up our minds late or knew exactly how to vote from day one, it makes not a jot of difference. It will, perhaps, months or maybe years from now. Things will happen and people on the TV will relate them back to the Referendum. But it will be an afterthought. The news is always rooted firmly in the present and the future, not the past. There's no audit. There will be no "I told you so" nor will an independent jury of our peers declare who was right. Or who to blame. There is only ever the news. And that's today. Not back then.

So what comes next? Wimbledon? Trump? More tragedy in the Mediterranean, more ISIS. More economy. Maybe a crooked tycoon who's drained the last few pennies from a shop your granny used to take you to, once upon a time. We should be so lucky. Even the much predicted property crash and desolation of negative equity is late turning-up. For news fans the length and breadth of the country, we're in for a long, empty summer.

It's a good thing, in the scheme of things... but without some whizzy bar charts and swivel-eyed crackpots on the telly for us to shout at, there will be a sense of longing when we switch on the headlines. We'll miss the good old days when everything was teetering on the brink. Stability is overrated when it comes to entertainment.

At least we can console ourselves with the thought that, in every way that really matters, no news is still good news. Except for the global economic malaise, the human tragedy in Syria, the plight of the refugees and the rise of political extremism in the most powerful nation on the planet. Yes, now the referendum is over we can remember that things are still pretty bad everywhere else. It's not just here. That's why we'll miss the dog and pony show. The real news is much more depressing.

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