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.