THE BLOG

Project Fear! - The Only Campaign for the EU Referendum

22/02/2016 12:15 GMT | Updated 21/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Next time you speak to someone well briefed by Leave.EU, Grassroots Out or that other 'leave' campaign make sure to ask them about the campaign coming from the 'stay' camp.

"PROJECT FEAR!" they'll cry, listing how those who want to stay are trying to imitate the Scottish referendum and terrify people into believing that there is no life outside the Union. A sense of moral pride, Union Flag waving and repeated mention of The Commonwealth will fill the conversation and you'll be left feeling like there is real hope for this green and pleasant land.

And that's nice to hear and feel, but it's not half the story.

The weekend just gone saw a historic moment in British history. The Prime Minister came back from Europe with some concessions, a new deal, and went on to declare a referendum on Europe. Whatever your view is on the deal itself, this is something that will be written in history books.

We heard Cameron, HRH Merkel, and Mr Tusk all declaring they believed they had a deal for the UK.

Then the campaigning began proper, and what a campaign.

6 Conservative Minsters declared they were for out and thousands took to the streets to campaign. Including me.

I was down in Clapham Junction, proudly wearing a bold blue t-shirt that declared 'IM IN'. I was fashioned with leaflets on jobs and security and my chat with the public began. At no point was there talk of "Britain worse out than in" or "we're all doomed". Instead the message was positive and clear. We spoke on how the EU supported tens of thousands of London jobs and of how the EU gave us greater security.

But apparently that message wasn't received as positive by all.

"PROJECT FEAR!" the old man shouted at me from outside a well-known burrito house (that I definitely recommend). "Here we go" I thought to myself. The chap came over and so did the same old message. He accused me of scaring people, making them fearful and lying about figures. The message of an EU that supported jobs and provided security was apparently me saying there'd be no jobs or security if out. He got quite heated at me, even called me a 'god botherer' and saying that Syrian refugees deserved to drown as they are too coward to fight. A real classy chap!

It left me feeling a bit dull. Maybe it was easier to campaign for out, as you get to wave a Union Flag and shout about Thatcher, Churchill or Hitler. Whereas all I had was some literature on a strong union working together for the good of all. Don't get me wrong, I was not going to switch, but I certainly feared that that kind of campaign by the 'leave' side would sway the British public.

Then I heard the press today and an equilibrium was established. The leave campaign HAD recruited 6 cabinet members, but two of those are hardly popular with the average Jane (why does it always have to be Joe?). Since when were Gove and IDS the way to reach the public? Meanwhile two Home Secretaries in Theresa May and Alan Johnson came out in favour of staying in. Would that be the immigration and security debate over?

After all, if you want rid of terrorists, then Theresa May is the public's choice!

I felt relaxed once more and poured another warm mug of Yorkshire's greatest export, proper tea. Messaging began to come out of the stay camp around benefits from lower prices, more stability etc. It was a positive message. Meanwhile over at one of the leave campaigns IDS opened his mouth. "Britain is more at risk of a Paris style attack whilst in the EU".

"PROJECT FEAR!" I shouted at my TV. In a mix of both anger and joy. The leave campaign had shown its true colours. This campaign isn't about British pride, it's about fear of the foreigner.

Ploughing through my Sunday broadsheet, with a fresh cup of Yorkshire, I read stories on how immigration benefitted our economy (more of that please), of how we will be able to stand up to Putin and China. But none of these stories made it close to headlines. Those that did can only be labelled as fear mongering.

Whilst I admit approaching this whole thing through EU tinted glasses, one thing remains clear.

Whatever the Stronger In and stay campaign say, we will be accused of scaring and lying. Whatever the 'i'maeurophobegetmeoutofhere.co.uk' group says, I am likely to feel they are projecting fear of the foreigner.

Meanwhile I believe that the campaign to stay is being positive and sharing a great message on our influence, economy, culture and place in the world.

So it seems whatever happens over the next few months one thing is for certain, we will only see and hear one type of campaign. Whatever message scrolls across the 'breaking news' bar at the bottom of 24 hour rolling news, be it positive, negative or just plain neutral, someone somewhere will be shouting at their TV.

"PROJECT FEAR"

*this blog was originally posted on David's personal site DigitalGruel