EU supporters need to accentuate the positive

Earlier this week Channel Four screened UKIP – The first 100 days, a mockumentary looking at what might possibly happen in the (somewhat unlikely) event of Nigel Farage  becoming Prime Minister in May.

Not surprisingly, it generated a lot of controversy, although I suspect that many of the complaints will have come from UKIP members. Personally, I was disappointed with the programme. I felt that the odd mix of satire (Neil Hamilton as Deputy PM!) and drama simply didn’t work and that the whole thing felt like it had been thrown together quickly without too much thought.

It does however raise the question of UK membership of the European Union and the fact that we seem destined to have a referendum  on the issue at some point over the next couple of years. Most business and political leaders seem to feel that uncertainty over our EU membership is damaging the economy. The feeling seem to be that a referendum with a decisive majority in favour of staying in Europe would end the uncertainty and put the issue to bed once and for all.

Of course, we’ve been here before. Last year the main UK political parties hoped that a decisive No vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum would kill off the notion of an Independent Scotland for a generation or more. Instead the lacklustre campaign by the Better Together  group resulted in a narrow No vote which, far from killing off Scottish nationalism, has seen a huge surge in support for the SNP.

If, as seems increasingly likely, we do have a referendum on EU membership, those who want to stay in Europe need to learn lessons from the Scottish Referendum campaign. Simply saying how horrible things will be if the UK pulls out of the EU will not work. Instead they need to concentrate on the positive and proactively communicate the benefits to Britain of continued EU membership. Negative campaigning didn’t work in the Scottish Referendum and it won’t work in any future European referendum.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Liberal Guerilla and commented:
    Thoughtful blog piece here that rightly argues that supporters of the European Union need to start making the case for membership in positive terms. The negative effects of withdrawing of course need highlighting, but proponents have spent far too long trying to scare people instead of persuade them of the benefits of working together. At a time of renewed Russian expansionism, when there are fast-growing and volatile global markets emerging, and at a time when environmental concerns are back at the top of the political agenda, it should not be a hard case to make.

    In terms of the UKIP documentary, I suspect that most of the complaints were from UKIP supporters. I suspect they don’t like the flashlight of public exposure being shone on a lot of the unpleasantness that is otherwise disguised by trying to use the same political lingua franca of the three main parties.

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