I have a confession to make. I apologise in advance to any Bennites peering at this blog, but I in fact support the In campaign. There, I said it. My personal Twitter even has a “Labour In For Britain” Twibbon. Frightful, isn’t it. The In campaign as a whole though, despite my esteemed presence, has been utterly flaccid.
Where’s Britain Stronger In Europe, sending in the big guns to talk about business and defence? Whatever happened to Labour In For Britain pushing forward with a positive message about workers rights and a social Europe? I’m a political nerd for God’s sake, and it’s been radio silence for me, so what hope does the In campaign in getting to most people, who unlike me don’t gorge themselves on Twitter like a child with an Easter Egg?
The Out campaign, notably, is supposed to be divided and riddled with infighting. Grassroots Out, Leave.EU, Vote Leave and various partisan campaigns like LabourLeave – it’s a labyrinth. Yet, with the exception of the two Labour campaigns mentioned, there seems to be a clear and coherent narrative. The Leave campaign has gone all out ‘Project Fear’, attacking freedom of movement with Trumpesque arguments, suggesting it facilitates all those evil foreigners hopping over the border to rape and pillage. This is part of a wider narrative of the EU being a sort of time bomb – more immigrants, higher fees, etc. This is a toxic and misleading but ultimately powerful narrative that is driving forward the Out campaign as a whole.
On the other hand, there is really only one campaign for the In lot – Britain Stronger In Europe. Labour In For Britain, despite my admittedly limp support for it on Twitter, is a non-entity, created to assure Labour activists that it won’t be another Scottish referendum. Alan Johnson, a better spokesperson for the campaign than a lukewarm Corbyn, was supposed to be leading it, but I haven’t heard a word from him on the radio, read any articles by him online or seen a snippet of him on TV. I get the occasional email from “Alan Johnson MP” but even social media presence (which given the success of the Jeremy Corbyn social media engine should be a strong point) has been weak – Labour In For Britain doesn’t even have a Facebook page!
Other Labour MPs have also been putting up a poor showing – now they’re backbenchers, people like Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Liz Kendall, the Labour centrists, should surely have far more time to devote to campaigning, hammering out a case with passion, energy and biting rhetoric to the British public. But no. Where have they gone? Labour is united on Europe, unlike pretty much anything else foreign policy related, so what’s going on?
Britain Stronger In Europe has not been much better. What’s the line? The slogan? There’s a cluster of various good reasons that we should stay in the EU if you look down their Twitter, but no unified message. Christ, even a Scottish No campaign style Project Fear would be better than this. At least they won, after all.
I’m deeply worried for the future of Britain. Becoming an isolated and intolerant little England, adrift in the North Sea, would be a retrograde step – especially considering the way politics is going in what would be our new best friend, America. Staying in Europe offers us a lot, and there’s a lot more we can get out of it yet – a post-referendum Britain could push for further reform, especially if we had a Labour government working with other progressive parties to ensure a democratic, social Europe. A lot is at stake, but no one with power on the In side seems to notice this. Not just in the Labour ‘campaign’ (if you could even call it that) but in Stronger In too. If things continue like this, I’m afraid the referendum will be handed on a plate to the Eurosceptics.