Sunday, 6 March 2016

Who's afraid of Project Fear?

Photo by Bantosh / CC BY

Project Fear: Downing St pictures presents a campaign of terror unlike anything you've seen before. Quake in fear, as the government tries to persuade you that jobs could be lost, if we leave the EU.

Watch goggle-eyed, cramming popcorn into your mouth hurriedly, as business after business warns about how the Pound might tumble if we decide to go it alone.

Coming to a cinema near you, in June 2016. (Warning: contains scenes of politicians strongly disagreeing and calling each other names)

In the run up to the EU referendum, due to take place on 23rd June, the Out campaign has been trying to forge a coherent us-versus-them narrative, which it hopes will show how nasty the In campaign is. Except the Out campaign is running its own Project Fear.

This article will concern the purely EU-related aspect of the campaign. The Tory infighting aspect, which is a story in and of itself, will be covered in a forthcoming article.

Just two weeks ago, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith or 'IDS', (Welfare and Pensions secretary) claimed that remaining in the EU greatly increased the likelihood of a Paris-style attack.

The comments come at a time when Ipsos Mori reports that terrorism is one the top 10 concerns facing Britons today. IDS is trying to appeal to the general public's fears of a terrorist attack, which hasn't even happened yet.

The argument has a logical gap. Terrorism is the problem, and so he thinks the solution is quitting the EU, above all. It seems like something of a leap, and says more about his personal views, than about how to actually tackle terrorism. IDS needs to elaborate on this further, if it is to be taken seriously.

Michael Gove, another Brexit supporter, is reported as saying that the far right has flared up to levels not seen since the 1930s, and that the dire straits of the economic crisis in Greece have seen "Hitler worshippers" such as Golden Dawn entering the Greek Parliament.

He added:
“Our security and sovereignty stand together. I believe that there are better opportunities to keep people safe if we are outside the European Union."

Mr Gove fails to state how a Brexit will actually halt the rise of the far right in places like Greece. His argument also fails to take note of the EU's origins. The European project emerged as an alternative way of conducting affairs in Europe, in reaction to the 1930s wave of fascism and terror.

Mr Gove is also not remembering recent British political history: the referendum is only taking place at all, because another political party, UKIP, were surging in the polls during the last parliament. UKIP is generally seen as a right-wing fringe that just won't sit comfortably within the Conservative benches.

Some might go as far as saying UKIP are far right, but the economic situation in the UK since 2008 has been drastically different to Greece's. Greek GDP has slumped but the UK has shuffled along, with average economic growth since 2010.

The rise of the far right is not EU-centric. The GOP in the US is being crippled by a lurch to the right which has been going on for many decades. This right-wing surge is also a phenomenon that goes far beyond the trivial pro-EU/anti-EU squabbles. Without a doubt, it will remain an issue for many years yet.

We'll never know what would have happened in the event of an EU-less Europe; it's the counter-factual. However, the 1920s and 1930s do serve as an example of how not to allow isolationism and nationalism to prevail following a bloody world war.

Quick fact to remember: the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the whole EU, as a sign of recognition for the achievements of the European project. Below is the Norweigan Nobel Committee's justification:

"The Nobel Peace Prize 2012 was awarded to European Union (EU) 'for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe'."

The debate is all very well, but what do the polls say right now? YouGov released a tranche of polls over the past few weeks, the most recent of which show a lead for the In campaign. The betting markets are showing signs that bets are piling behind Britain remaining in the EU.

Based on these two sets of indicators, perhaps the biggest fear is coming from the Out campaign?Maybe they're starting to take notice of the way public opinion is forming, and they're panicking. Just saying that Brexit Britain will become a green and plesant land again isn't enough.

Now the Outers are saying fascism is on the rise, and that terrorism is more likely if we stay, but the causes and solutions aren't really obvious, if we just do a Brexit. They're structural social problems, and will take more than a referendum to fix.

Iain Dale certainly shows signs of referendum fatigue, and it's only March. He made the controversial decision today to compare a Brexit to Britain declaring war on Germany in 1939. Yep. Not the most pleasant juxaposition.

Source: Twitter (user @twlldun)

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