As Britain slowly makes its way towards the EU referendum, it is essential that the ‘in’ campaign is not left for Westminster alone to lead. Why? Well let’s examine a more recent case – namely, the Scottish vote in 2014:
In Scotland, the gap between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns was staggering. Two entirely different approaches towards the argument were put forward. The first (and more appealing) was the ‘yes’ campaign. Although led by the SNP as a party of government, Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon created a movement of hope, optimism and belief that resonated with a huge number of the electorate, from all backgrounds, classes and political persuasions. Although the ‘yes’ campaign failed to win the referendum (by a significant 10 point defeat), its actions did something far more significant than perhaps even the First Minister could have hoped for. The loss resulted in an SNP surge that would win them all but three seats in Westminster and a more than confident placing in the run-up to the Scottish Assembly elections in 2016.
The ‘no’ campaign however, was part of a patchwork of ideas, parties and speakers. Without a clear lead, it was up to the former Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to take over fight within the final few days.
Originally, unionists from all parties chose to lead a pessimistic campaign that made Scotland seem reliant, unproductive, uncreative and unpatriotic. In fact, it was only as the 28th September nudged closer that the ‘no’ lobby made a risky gamble that only half paid off? What was this gamble? Half-hearted patriotism. It is this attempt at copying the opposition at what they did best that marked the ‘no’ campaign as patronizing at best.
It is therefore, essential that this does not happen again. As was wisely said earlier this year, ‘you cannot out-UKIP UKIP’. This is wise advice. There are better ways to put forward the pro-European argument than flag waving. To win, the ‘in’ campaign requires facts, simple english and bold ideas of reform.
For the sake of the union, I urge Westminster to take note.