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You Think This Referendum Is About the EU? Think Again

29/02/2016 11:11 GMT | Updated 28/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Unfortunately, for those people who really wanted to debate EU membership and consider voting to leave, they aren't going to get their chance. The referendum has nothing to do with those issues or even EU membership - and for this reason I would encourage everyone of a like mind (to leave) to vote Remain.

The date of the referendum has been set and now we face weeks of Tory infighting, of racist headlines in the gutter press, and of Farage and his cabal appearing round-the-clock on the BBC.

And how much of that time will actually be devoted to intelligent, factual debate of what the EU is and does, and the reasons why we should remain or leave? Practically none.

We've already seen that Farage has a strange concept of the truth, so expect nothing from him but the oft-debunked fantasies that he always comes up with. The UKIP front organisations Leave EU and Grassroots Out seem to be running the most overtly racist campaign, claiming a broad coalition of MPs and unions but what actually is nothing more than a handful of characters notorious for their outspoken attitudes, particularly towards Muslims. We've seen the most outrageous statement yet published by a UKIP MEP, who said that we should vote Brexit solely to protect white women from Muslims.

They deliberately equate refugees and asylum seekers with the EU immigrants that come to the UK to work - confusing the issues, though only 1,000 Syrian refugees have so far been admitted to the UK. Additionally we've seen the 'Schrödinger's Migrant' - one who simultaneously is homeless yet taking social housing; is unemployed and claiming benefits, yet at the same instant taking a job from a British worker.

This week, deputy leader of UKIP, Suzanne Evans, was sacked for the second time. She released a briefing for Brexit campaigners telling them not to mention UKIP or Farage on the doorstep, as these were potential vote-losers. And at the same time, Farage loses his own supporters after inexplicably welcoming ex-Respect MP George Galloway to the campaign.

Then there is Vote Leave, which was seen as the more respectable, more conventional campaign, supported by UKIP's MP Douglas Carswell and Green peer Jenny Jones. But Jones quit when Nigel Lawson, a climate-science denier, was appointed as campaign leader. Yesterday, as the Republic counted their election votes, Lawson said that Brexit would give the opportunity for Ireland to be re-incorporated into the UK - this in the centenary of the Proclamation. And one of Vote Leave's campaigners is disgraced ex-UKIP MEP Joanne Atkinson, now an independent who sits in a fascist group in the EU with Marine Le Pen.

The Tory rebels also seem to have problems with why they are voting to leave. Boris Johnson said that he had spent days agonizing over his decision, yet was unable to name either of the campaigns, and didn't know the difference between the Council of Europe and the European Union. Michael Gove said that Cameron's deal wasn't legally binding - it is. Michael Howard burbled on about an independent UK, about 'British traditions', nothing about any actual reason why people should vote leave.

The Leave campaign seems to be irredeemably dominated by the extreme right, campaigning at best solely on the fantasy of a 'green and pleasant' independent UK, something that never existed, and in the ever-shrinking world of the 21st Century, is totally impossible. At worst, we will see an increase in islamophobic attacks as UKIP, aided by a BBC solely concerned with ratings and a right-wing gutter press, make their message of fear and hate ever more venomous.

Both sides of the Leave campaign, in reality, have absolutely nothing to do with the EU. They don't seek to educate people about what the EU is or does; what the political dangers or benefits are; they won't mention what the EU did to Greece or Portugal; they won't mention TTIP. Farage and his remaining gang seek power for its own end and will exploit racism and xenophobia to get it. The Tories are fighting to find out who will be crowned the next PM.

The leave campaign have found their demographic - the middle-aged and elderly - who always turn out to vote, and know how best to make sure that they do:

  • Fear
  • Nostalgia
  • Patriotism
  • Xenophobia

Vote Remain on the other side has none of this populist rhetoric to exploit. They have been trying to prove a negative - saying that the arguments put forward by the Leave campaign aren't true - but once these myths are out there, repeated endlessly, they become impossible to challenge even with the facts.

Knowing all this, how can a person of good conscience vote to leave, or worse, abstain?

A vote for Leave endorses the racist rhetoric, gives a perceived mandate and consequently more power to the extreme right, and ensures that the Tory party will shift even more to the right to combat it. We've seen this already in the way that the Tories fought their campaigns against UKIP in the general election - the very referendum itself is a legacy of this.

So I'll be campaigning for Remain in the referendum, and I hope you will also consider the full and actual meaning of your vote too - you can't afford to waste it.