After months of news coverage and reader commentary from the more informed on both sides, the EU Referendum is now registering with previously less connected minds.
Attacks on women
In a frank interview published on Saturday, June 4, 2016, our primary Leave campaigner, UKIP (UK Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage told The Telegraph:
“The nuclear bomb this time would be about Cologne,” he told the Telegraph. Women may be at a particular risk from the “cultural” differences between British society and migrants, after gangs of migrant men allegedly launched a mass sexual attack against hundreds of women in Germany last New Year’s Eve, he said.
“There are some very big cultural issues,” he said. Asked whether mass sex attacks on the scale of Cologne could happen in Britain, Mr Farage replied: “It depends if they get EU passports. It depends if we vote for Brexit or not. It is an issue.”
On Tuesday, June 7, Farage’s comments boomeranged. The Commons Home Affairs Committee, led by outspoken Labour MP Keith Vaz, met to discuss immigration. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Revd Justin Welby, was invited to participate. Vaz asked the Archbishop if he agreed that Farage’s remarks were ‘racist’. Welby replied (see 15:36 entry):
I would agree with you.
I think that is an inexcusable pandering to people’s worries and prejudices.
That’s giving legitimisation to racism, which I’ve seen in parishes in which I’ve served and has led to attacks on people in those parishes. And we cannot legitimise that.
Fear is a pastoral issue, you deal with it by recognising it, by standing alongside and providing answers to it.
What that is is accentuating fear for political gain and that is absolutely inexcusable.
It would have been interesting to have had the two of them discussing England’s grooming gangs two years ago. Why make a bad situation potentially worse by Remaining? Has the Archbishop seen the figures from Sweden and Germany showing a jump in attacks on women over the past year?
That evening, a ‘debate’ took place on ITV. Farage had the first half hour to answer questions from the audience. Prime Minister David Cameron had the other. These are not debates in the classic sense of the word, because the PM refuses to participate in one.
A few women accused Farage of racism for suggesting that women could be at risk if we Remain.
I am still trying to process the cognitive disconnect of women criticising a man for warning them about possible danger to themselves or other women.
That danger is sexual assault and rape.
Farage saw that coming, however. He replied and moved on quickly:
I’m used to being demonised …
I’m not going to stand and attack the archbishop of Canterbury but he would have done better to read what I actually said … It is a tiddly issue in this campaign. I knew the Remainers would come to me and conflate what I said.
Voting deadline extended
For months now, we have had various announcements encouraging UK citizens to register to vote this year. In England, we had local or county elections in May. Some areas had council elections, while others voted for their Police Commissioner, depending on where one lived.
The EU Referendum has been in the media for months now. The voter registration deadline was 23:59 on Tuesday, June 7.
After the aforementioned ITV programme ended that evening at 10:00 p.m., approximately 50,000 Britons went online to register to vote.
The voter registration site crashed.
I have no sympathy for them. My parents told me time and time again never to wait until the last minute to do anything.
If I were PM, I would have said, ‘Tough.’ But the Electoral Commission and the Government agreed to extend the deadline by a further 48 hours for a two-hour crash. Conservative MP Matt Hancock tweeted early on June 8:
Delighted at huge voter registration levels. Due to technical problems with the website yesterday we’ll extend deadline to midnight tomorrow
That means 23:59 on Thursday, June 9.
Like me, my better half and millions of other voters, columnist and author Brendan O’Neill thought this was beyond the pale. He addressed the issue in The Spectator (emphases mine):
The more people we have engaged in democracy, the better. But a deadline is a deadline, no? If you turn up at a polling booth at 10pm, when voting time is over, then you can’t vote — we all know that. The swarm of youngish voters registering at the last minute for the EU referendum are the virtual equivalent of being late to the ballot box. Why are allowances being made? Why have another two days been added? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s because these kind of voters are useful for the establishment view that we must Remain.
The satirical news site Newsthump summed up the madness well with its headline: ‘Three months wasn’t long enough, claims man who couldn’t register to vote at 11.50pm.’ Look, I’m a little torn on this. When it comes to democracy, I’m positively Chartist: the more clout the people have, the better. But I can’t help feeling that today’s rewriting of the rules, and the law, to allow late voters to take part in this ‘great festival of democracy’ — as David Cameron referred to the EU referendum today — is because it is suspected that these late voters will be beneficial to Remain. Accidentally, this might give rise to a larger, more populous act of democracy on 23 June; but the motivation seems a pretty low one to me, being more about using generations to gerrymander the outcome than genuinely throwing open politics to the people. Is this about enfranchising more of the ‘right people’ in order to counter all those wrong’uns already registered?
I put the Newsthump quote in purple, even if it is satirical, because my better half and I were making similar quips.
Seriously, if people cannot get their act in gear by June 9, they deserve to sit this referendum out. And if they cannot manage to register to vote in time for future elections, then, frankly, voting does not mean that much to them.
All this is more pandering to the Special Snowflake crowd.
I would not be surprised to find thousands of Special Snowflakes queuing up outside polling stations at 9:50 p.m. expecting to cast a vote before 10:00 p.m. on June 23. It will be the story of the month: ‘Waaah! The government wouldn’t let me vote! They denied me a voice!’
Project Fear ripped apart
Journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil has an incredible command of facts and figures on any number of news topics. He is also in the traditional mould and does not express his own opinion. I haven’t a clue where he personally stands on the EU Referendum, nor do I wish to know. It often appears as if he is supporting or opposing something when he is probably only doing a forensic examination of a politician’s position and trying to draw out the facts.
On June 8, Neil interviewed George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and big Remain supporter, for The Spectator. Wow, what a take down of Project Fear’s talking points. The transcript is available to read in full. I highly recommend it.
The exchange about Airbus — only one of the topics discussed — follows. Neil’s statements are in bold, Osborne’s in normal type:
We make the wings, where would Airbus go to buy the wings if not Britain? In or out the EU? Who else makes these wings?
By the way, the Chief Executive of Airbus has themselves said it would threaten their investment in the United Kingdom and the point about this, this isn’t an Airbus factory, this is a small manufacturing business in West Yorkshire supplying the wings. This is the reality of the single market.
This is another scare story. Airbus would come to Britain to buy its wings and its Rolls Royce engines whether we are in or out of the EU.
That is not what the Chief Executive says, the Chief Executive says that investment in the UK …
So where would they go?
They have got factories in Toulouse, they have got factories in Germany …
They don’t make wings in Germany.
The whole point about Airbus is that it is an integrated supply chain. We import things from Germany, we sell them to France and if there are tariffs, a tax on those exports, then why would the business happen in the UK? We’d be out of the single market, that’s the reality. Britain would be quitting – quitting the single market, quitting the prosperity, quitting the source of jobs. The people who pay the price are not you or me, Andrew, it’s that person working on the assembly line in Keighley.
Why would the business happen in the UK? Because that is where the wing assembly takes place. As Neil rightly notes, they are not made in Germany.
Osborne sounds the Fear alarm about quitting, quitting, quitting! Then he asks us to consider the assembly line person in Keighley.
Dollars to donuts — Pounds to pies? — the Keighley person probably intends to vote Leave. Where else can his wings be produced for the foreseeable future? Tariffs aren’t going to come in overnight, either.
All this takes time, possibly two years.
It seems to me that only younger voters will be persuaded by Project Fear.
Another televised ‘debate’ takes place tonight on ITV and will have ended by the time this post appears.
I hope it rains on June 23.
May the UK be guided wisely in the referendum vote.