The lack of a positive message:
The ‘stay’ campaign in the EU referendum is having difficulty finding its feet. The reason for this is the lack of a clear, easily transmittable positive message about the EU. It is possible to win on the basis of fear, scaring voters about the consequences of an exit. This seems to have been the strategy of the stay campaign in the Scottish referendum. The issue is however that this is a dangerous strategy for two reasons. First, negative campaigns do not work very effectively. Second, negative campaigns do not settle the issue conclusively.
If pro-Europeans want to win this referendum and stop the demagogues of the right from demanding another one in a few years, they need to offer a positive narrative about Europe. Can one be found however that will work for the ‘leave’ leaning British voter?
I am not so sure. We can all come up with a fairly convincing list of arguments on why Brexit is a bad idea, but can we think of reasons why staying in the EU is good, other than the velocity of existing arrangements?
EU law is positive in protecting the consumer as most lawyers know. This is unlikely to have much impact on a public ‘disgusted’ with ‘health and safety gone mad’ and other such tripe.
Should we try and convince the public that EU immigration is good for the country? It is, but good luck with that argument. So far as third country immigration is concerned and the refugee crisis, best not go there at all.
Let’s show how EU institutions have effectively dealt with economic crisis in the Eurozone… Eh, maybe not.
You get I hope the nature of the problem. The ‘stay’ campaign needs a positive narrative, for sure. How to come up with one is less sure.
Lefty zika heads:
An additional problem is the attitude of the left towards the EU
There is a problem with the Corbynite Left. Actually there are many problems with the ‘grassroots’ non-Parliamentary left, but I will focus on just one.
They are an unpredictable danger for the In-camp in the EU Referendum. The reason for this is that the condemnation of the EU as a neoliberal, pro market Leviathan, may lead significant numbers of young, newly energized voters (by the Corbyn effect) to vote for Brexit. They may do so thinking that this enables more discretion and more options in their attempt to re-balance the state-market relationship in Britain.
The idea that a Britain outside the EU may allow socialist type alternatives is a fallacy for two reasons.
Reason one is that Socialism in One Country (Социализм в одной стране in Stalin’s words) does not work. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1921 except Russia’s, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. That turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held Marxist position that socialism must be established globally (world communism). The British hard left seems to think that while leftist movements have failed in Europe (Syriza abandoned its leftist pretenses in Greece, Podemos is fizzling out etc), a left alternative could be built in Britain, starting with Corbyn taking power in 2020.
It will not, because Corbyn cannot and will not win in 2020. No pollster, or betting shop or academic who has looked at the numbers think that Corbyn has a better chance of winning than a snowball materializing in hell.
Reason two is that in the short term defeat in the EU Referendum and Brexit will launch the country sharply to the right. In the mayhem that will ensue, the left message will be lost in the nationalist fervor and right wing anti-immigrant, racist politicking that will dominate between 2017 and 2020.
As Corbyn will have forfeited the higher ground (pro-immigration, pro-internationalist) by not supporting clearly and unequivocally staying-in, he will suffer even worse in the General Election.
Voting for a Britain outside the EU for the working class is equivalent to turkeys voting for Xmas. Voting for Britain outside the EU is voting for a 1000 year Tory rule (if you will excuse the unpleasant analogy).
Does the working class really want to align itself with the Hedge Fund managers who will support the Leave campaign out of unashamedly expressed self interest? Really?
Now is the time for the working class, the left, to come out strongly in support of the EU.
Thinking people of course do not like what the EU has become. Nonetheless, the interests of the working class and the left are best served by Britain staying in and working for a better future for everyone.
Socialism in One Country did not work too well for the Russians either.
Despite the obvious nature of the above, groups of fantasists like LabourLeave are digging the grave of the working class campaigning for Brexit. In what follows I try to explain why they are wrong, without becoming too offensive.
Hello, I am Kevin:
Let us explore the position of a fictional left leaning voter, currently in the (persuadable) leave group. We shall call this chap Kevin.
Kevin works as a teaching assistant at a University. He is on modest pay, but aspires to an academic career which will see a steady improvement in his salary, coupled with the security of a permanent job. He is a self-proclaimed lefty and supported Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest.
Kevin hates Europe. For a lot of the more ‘radical’ British left, Europe is a neoliberal nightmare. The ever-closer Union by stealth is building a market based leviathan that sucks away sovereignty and effectively outlaws any policy incompatible with economic orthodoxy. Kevin always held this view, but two recent events have solidified his position as an enemy of the EU.
The first is the crisis in the Eurozone and the treatment of Greece. The depression in Greece, Kevin argues frequently, gave birth to a left alternative. Syriza came to power in 2015 and fought valiantly against the forces of Euro-neoliberalism under the command of Prof. Varoufakis. The Syriza rebellion however was crushed by Merkelism and the unrelenting neoliberal fiends of the Eurogroup. Varoufakis was ousted and Tsipras capitulated after being blackmailed into submission. The EU was always seen as undemocratic, but the latest events make it worse than that. The EU, at least in its Eurozone part, will go out of its way to undermine and subvert democracy, to crush dissent. Schaeuble will roll over anyone who objects to German ordo-liberalism.
The second event is the TTIP negotiation. For decades Europe, while pursuing a liberalising agenda, had resisted American influence on full scale marketisation. Some protection remained for certain market sectors and a European welfare state survived to a degree. While this was not optimal in Kevin’s view, it was still better than the do-or-die American culture. Then the European Commission embarked on secret negotiations on a grand trade deal. A trade deal that would bring the worse of Anglo-saxon capitalism to Europe, a deal that would even lift corporations out of the jurisdiction of national courts, creating ‘special’ investment tribunals tasked with protecting the expectations of the market against the rights of citizens.
All this was too much for Kevin. He will vote for Britain to leave the European Union. His last act of solidarity to the Greeks will be to drop his ballot in the box and stick it to Schaeuble.
Hang on a second….
What would the day after the referendum be like for our friend Kevin? All polling suggests that Corbyn is set to lose in the 2020 general election, and lose badly. If Labour lost in 2010 (being accused of the financial crisis), lost in 2015 (where it tried to advocate for the poorest in society), will it win in 2020 on a classical left agenda?
Lets assume that it will not (at least the bookies do).
Kevin has proudly rejected the ‘neoliberal’ EU, so that he is tormented at home by a Thatcherite right? The Tories, if ‘leave’ wins the referendum are likely to lurch further to the right. Kevin will be left with a country turning right, lose social protections guaranteed by EU norms, lose access to the European Court of Justice, probably lose the Human Rights Act to a reduced Bill of Rights created by a revanchist right. Kevin will have shut himself off, not only from the market lovers of Brussels, but also from social movements and progressive parties that are trying to argue for a more socially inclusive Europe in the European Parliament.
Kevin will be alone, at the mercy of a domestic predatory elite that cares nothing for him.
The message for Kevin and all the Kevins of the Corbynite left out there is this: Yes the EU is flawed and neoliberal and in need of serious change. Leaving the EU will leave you at the mercy of Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne and their ‘business’ friends.
Perhaps Kevin should think about where the biggest threat to any left alternative comes from. It does not come from Europe.
PS. I will be happy to come explain this in person (at my own cost) to any LabourLeave supporters and help them come to their senses.