A week in, a little under four months to go. Why oh why could the Referendum not have been included in the elections in May?

Okay, I know the answer to that one, but still… people are, generally, divided into one of four camps:

  • vote to remain
  • vote to leave
  • haven’t decided
  • don’t care, won’t be voting

I’m reasonably confident that the people in the first two groups won’t change their minds as a result of what they see and hear during the campaigning. I know I won’t. The people who won’t vote won’t be motivated to, and interest in European elections in general is low in the UK. That just leaves the floaters, beloved of opinion pollsters across the land.

My last act as Chair CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire was to attend Sarah Pinch’s first event as President, at which I got talking to a few academic types. I’ve been toying with doing an MPhil or PhD (as if!) and was interested in the way that we use emotive language to make a point rather than relying on a couple of good facts and letting people make up their own minds. One of the prompts was language used by Angela Merkel a few years ago when she said that we needed to save the Euro as it underpinned the EU, and the EU had prevented war in Europe for over 60 years.

It surprised me that after all this time we still thought of a united Europe as stopping internal warfare, rather than as a tool for economic prosperity. Surely, civilised Western nations didn’t do the ‘war’ thing any more?

That kind of emotive language has already been on display this first week. And there’s much more of it to come I’m sure, from both sides, because the facts of the matter can’t be demonstrated one way or another, there’s no control group for the last 40 years of membership (unless you count Norway – which isn’t the UK). So, we rely on fear; fear of war, fear of immigration, fear of a loss of sovereignty, fear of splendid isolation. Never the positives – or what positives there are are drowned out.

On the plus side, it’ll be a marvellous case study. Time to start looking for those MPhil / PhD courses then.