|Let us end the debate. Please!|
Last week Ofcom decided to start treating UKIP as a major party in terms of the way they are allowed to broadcast and campaign. This is a significant turning point and to me says more about where our political system is now rather than about UKIP per se.
Is it not time for the pro EU lobby to realise that we face a real problem, and all their different agendas; donors and events are entirely irrelevant if Britain is not even in the EU. Never mind reforming anything, we won't have a say because we won't be there.
This is a real possibility which the pro EU side seem still to be ignoring.
To think UKIP are a ragbag party capitalising on the discontentment people have with Britain and with no coherent policies is quite true. But to treat them as such is very wrong.
UKIP is not a solution - it is a symptom of a broken Britain. So the solution is to offer a remedy for mending it.
The more I have got involved with the pro EU lobby through several organisations the more I see a shocking lack of commitment to the cause. I have witnessed astounding waste of resources and talent in getting the message out to the public who are crying out for information. The only information they really get is from UKIP because they are tailoring it for the average voter to understand.
The Europhiles persist in lengthy and needlessly complex documents and reports which for the average voter is a huge turn off.
Those that read such things already have their opinion and will vote accordingly.
One Europhile hack proudly announced to me at some pointless soiree that the diplomats and MPs present were on side. Well, with respect that is superb, but I would imagine they had not been persuaded by him or changed their thoughts in the slightest. It is real people who will decide and they are the people that need to be informed.
If I can convince one apathetic teenager to go put and vote for a Europhile candidate I will feel I have achieved something good.
Another significant drawback to the Europhile movement is that there are far too many egos involved looking for their slice of the limelight. Too many cooks spoil the broth as they say and while I often hear people ask where is the pro EU Farage what we really need is a strong unified approach based on coherent common sense and reason.
I have lost count of the times that instead of 'we' it is 'I' who is mentioned when campaign ideas touted.
When I put my concerns to several high profile politicians, they broadly agreed but laid the blame at the media's door and held their hands up in surrender.
Yet UKIP blame the media for their negative profile. Who then is correct?
From journalists I speak to, they too are crying out for some pro material and spokespeople.
A friend from the BBC told me he was sick of them getting Farage on for every political interview or Question Time but let us face it, the rest of his party cannot do what he does. It is truly a one man party.
Balanced debate is the only way people can make decisions.
Yes, the media mock UKIP but only in the same way they mock all people trying to change politics, for good or bad. That too is divisive but if you cannot beat them join them I think.
By putting a stronger message through all forms of the media, the pro side will get to the people who make the decision.
All parties pray on the vulnerable and their concerns and fears but none of them really put a positive message out with real options. This is a massive failing in our political system and voter turn out will get progressively worse until this is rectified.
It is not acceptable to me that in this age of mediocrity our politics too is mediocre.
Britain does deserve better.
Every day I stumble across yet another pro EU organisation or think tank. Some are new, some are established but only now finding their voice. Some require paying members, some have rich donors, others are backed by business and some are ultra federalist. There are organisations for students, and think tanks of ex Eurocrats. All with their own agendas. Ironically, some even overlap with shared presidents and board members.
All of them want the UK to be in the EU.
This is the one thing they all agree on yet are too stubborn to cooperate over.
Pro Europa, British Influence, European Movement, BNE are some of the more proactive ones but go out and ask Joe Bloggs who these people are and they have no idea and they definitely do not care.
Just as UKIP voters know few real truths or facts, most people likely to vote Pro also care little for statistics. They just need a reasoned debate explained in a normal manner.
Imagine the amazing result if all the organisations cooperated and campaigned together and we sent the best people to Brussels in the European parliamentary elections...
Maybe the real question here is does Britain need a new party?
Admittedly the SDP did not fare well but times have changed and yet we have a political system which has not changed to keep up with peoples' needs and desires.
People just want their fears and concerns addressed.
UKIP filled that gap. I cannot blame them for seizing an opportunity.
A few weeks ago I went to a very strange event which was pretty far out my comfort zone - a UKIP meeting. I like many in the pro EU lobby thought I knew what they were all about and felt sure I knew what to expect. Neither a crazy federalist or EU hack, nor a sceptic I feel I have a fairly healthy and balanced view to the EU and Britain's relationship with it.
But if I have learnt anything over the past few years I have learnt never to get cocky. About anything. If you think you know something. Think again. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of that meeting.
The entire experience was unexpectedly depressing, as soon as my friends and I sat down we glanced at each other with vexation. The air in the room was heavy with despair before anything had been said. I have been to many political party gatherings across the spectrum and most have a sort of buzz about them. Even if misplaced!
Apart from a spiteful manner in which most of the discussion took, I was shocked at the lack of any actual substance to what was said.
Apart form the bizarrely biased migrant discussion, I heard no real policies or answers.
My two personal highlights of that meeting were one woman asking when hanging was coming back and a white middle aged UKIP councillor saying he wasn't racist and dragging his wife of colour up on her feet to prove so. Awkward doesn't cover it!
When one is right it is so easy. UKIP candidates often flounce off from interviews, or get flustered. When one is wrong it is hard to answer anything or speak with conviction.
The pro side have it really easy in theory.
To their credit, the UKIP candidates handled any non UKIP banter with respect. They are clearly getting better media training now. But they still didn't really answer anything.
Maybe they'll make good politicians after all!
So ultimately UKIP by their own admission have absolutely no idea on how they would extricate the UK from the EU. They have no time frame, and no knowledge of the logistics.
They also admit , with alarming frequency that they do not yet have policies on key political issues.
The very issues they're targeting the voter on.
If a party cannot even answer their own mission statement then how can they possibly address the many concerns that Britain faces?
Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford have written a new book on this political phenomenon, 'Revolt of the Right'.
I have heard Goodwin speak and he sets out a very clear reason why UKIP even exist let alone their success.
From an academic point of view it is interesting to look at this rise and where it comes from and I definitely think the pro EU side ignores this and persists in assuming they are all 'loons'.
No disrespect to the author but I will answer why UKIP have become popular in one sentence.
In times of despair and crisis, and when no one puts forward an option of a bright new future, people instead look for scapegoats to blame and these are often peddled by the far right.
We live in those times and the EU is painted as the cause of all ills in Britain. The truth really is that Britain needs to address the severe domestic problems that have been neglected for decades. We have been left far behind compared to other nations.
Sticky plaster politics is the standard model of UK politics when in fact what we need is a clear, far reaching and concise blue print for how Britain and the government should operate. Much like we talk of the Nordic model or the German model. There is an air of certainty within these countries and even though parties and premiers change, people know what is a national standard to expect and can plan accordingly.
Britain does not have that. The human brain hates uncertainty and it leads to chaos and dperession.
Lack of certainty and reassurance has put the UK where it is now.
Sticky plaster politics just does things ad hoc and neglects the real problems, knowing that every five years it will be someone else's turn. Thus the cycle continues, going nowhere.
UKIP to their credit offer a very unified clear voice. The pro side does not.
The Lib Dems may be offering up Clegg for sacrifice when he debates with Farage and as they seem to be so unpopular at the moment I am not sure this presents the public with any clear choice or options. Clegg means well but unless he changes his tactics for the debate, some helpful EU facts will not be enough. Scare tactics are the only way. Fight fire with fire.
The Tories and Labour seem to permanently have their head stuck in the sand hiding from the whole mess and unwilling to speak out one way or the other.
Apart from some very divisive backbenchers , the broad consensus is we need to remain in EU and start reforming and getting stronger from the inside, by taking a proactive role.
The public would like to hear that. There will always be a few disgruntled hateful UKIP voters and they are not the target demographic.
Better for the pro EU side to target the undecided and apathetic voters and offer them some decent opinion. Most people have no opinions of their own and borrow ones from other people anyway!
All this talk of wooing 'stakeholders' makes me feel a bit sick actually. I am often in conversation with some EU flunky who uses this term and it is condescending and lacking the wisdom to see that it is people who will decide our future in the EU.
Not the politicians or big business tycoons, though of course they have a duty to lead opinion.
A lot of people quite like being lead too....
|An umbrella to protect against UKIP weather|
They could offer a panel of key charismatic spokespeople, across party to go out and speak. There are plenty of them.
The EU should not be a discussion point anymore other than normal EU news that any member state involves itself in. The only way for it to stop is get rid of the Sceptics once and for all.
Only when we are able to start addressing the concerns of the nation and rid ourselves of the divisive force that UKIP is then the country can heal.
But really it is the three parties who should be unified in their approach. UKIP seeks to take votes from all three parties after all and it is in their best interests to do so. But many of them do not live in the world that I do and because of that they really have no idea how real a problems it is.
All this bitterness, resentment and confusion either pushes people to vote for UKIP or not vote at all. Either option is bad for the UK and what is needed now is some common sense so UK can act like a gown up member of the EU rather than a petulant child making demands and turning nasty.
Ultimately the pro EU side is not a party and it is the job of the three main parties to ensure that people do not vote for Sceptics.
Voters are bewildered because UKIP are a clear NO to EU side but there is no clear choice on the ballot paper for the YES to EU side.
Unless someone starts a new party right now there are only two options.
1 - Pro Eu side put aside all their different agendas to campaign solely on maintaing Britain's membership in the EU. When that debate has been won, the EU election returns only pro EU candidates and any referenda is decided then they can all disband again and return to fighting for their relevant EU agenda.
2- All three parties need to put a united view out for the voters to see there is a clear choice.
If sceptics among those parties dislike it then now would be a good time to cull the system once and for all. As one MP said, UKIP has cleansed his party of extremists.
And I would add this caveat.
Focus on Britian. UKIP repeatedly tell everyone how patriotic they are but suggesting Britian becomes isolated and adrift is not patriotic. Remind people that they can have St George's Day, play Elgar to their hearts content and do as many English things as they wish. The EU have not outlawed any of the above! Being in the EU and being British are not mutually exclusive.
Ultimately hatred drives on passion more so than mere 'liking'. So all those who state their hatred of the EU have more drive than those who merely quite like it. After all, no one loves the EU, even the most diehard fans! But liking can be turned into something positive whereas sceptics only thrive on negativity. And the British need some positivity.
My message to the the pro EU lobby is simply this. Unite, speak out and let us end this tired agreement once and for all and get on with the things that really matter.
Much of what UKIP peddle is just opinion. Facts alone are not enough, it is how you use them.
Marcus Aurelius said it best ....
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth"