Monday, 29 February 2016

Putting the frighteners on

If you have read Joe Pike's "Project Fear" you will know, more or less, how the current EU Referendum campaign is going to run. The debate is being led today by a Cabinet Office paper predicting a decade-long plague of locusts (or something equally terrifying) if England votes Out.

The result of Project Fear (the Scottish Referendum version) was a collapse in the No vote. They held the line, just, but the impact of fear was simply to drive voters toward the much more positive Yes campaign. As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pointed out today, "the In campaign in this referendum doesn’t have a 20-point lead to squander."

Except that in this campaign both sides are running Project Fear. It's Project Fear vs. Project Fearty, or Terror versus Horror, Bad versus Worser. None of the Westminster pack seem remotely interested in making the positive case for Europe. A positive case that includes basic rights for workers, that protects our privacy and data, that encourages international exchange and learning and that has meant peace in Western Europe.

This Horrible Hydra of a campaign will remind people in Scotland of the manipulation and propaganda of Project Fear in the Scottish Referendum. We will recognise the symptoms; the CEOs of banks, retailers and mobile phone companies who will announce that they will quit the country/close the banks/put up prices/shut off the phones if we vote the wrong way. A  desperate last-minute 'Vow' from David and his chums promising a lifetime of milk, honey and beer to anyone who will vote Stay. The media persuaded by the Cabinet Office to toe the Stay line. And a leak by Alistair Carmichael of a conversation between the North Korean Ambassador and The Muppets that purports to show that Dr Who wants to bed Boris Johnson.

We are going to see inside David Cameron and Boris Johnson's heads over the next three months. It's not going to be a pretty sight.

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