Yesterday’s horrific murder of Jo Cox MP was an attack on our democracy and should be condemned by all without equivocation. That said, the Daily Star headline (above), and the echoes, whether directly or by calculated implication, in a great many comments on Social Media over the last 24 hours is extremely dangerous for our country. The suggestion is that those who wish to leave the EU are extremists, those like me, who want to take back sovereignty from the EU are routinely described as “Little Englanders”, “Xenophobes” or “Racist”.
Consistently over the last few months, 50% of those polled support a withdrawal from the EU and fairly consistently, the other 50% have been regularly abusing them with these kind of insults. When I first wrote here about the EU referendum back in February it was in a debate with journalist Peter Jukes, what was the very first issue I raised?
Jon – Can we agree from the outset, that the overwhelming majority of those who’ll be voting in the EU referendum on 23rd June later this year will do so because they hold honestly held, sometimes strongly held, opinions, whether they vote for the UK to remain within the EU or to leave?
There is likely to be increasingly intemperate commentary in the country over the coming months and if, on the one hand, those wishing to remain within the EU characterise or caricature those who disagree with them as xenophobes or anti-European, or on the other hand, those who wish to leave the EU paint their opponents as unpatriotic or national self-flagellants who have no faith in Britain’s ability to govern itself, then the important issues that are needed to inform any decision the electorate have to make will be lost in a deluge personal insults.
Remember that polling is regularly showing around 50% support for leaving the EU, yet at last year’s general election only 12.6% voted for UKIP this on a turnout of 66.4% ; at the last European election in 2014 UKIP support was 27.5% on a turnout of only 35.6%.
At the European elections, UKIP received 4,376,635 in 2015 they received 3,881,099 votes but they didn’t field candidates in every constituency. What we see is that the UKIP vote is determined and very consistent.
Now, I believe the UK should leave the EU but I have never supported or voted for UKIP, given this opportunity to vote in a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU I’ll be casting my vote to leave but my politics are moderate and near the centre. I do not believe that wishing to have an independent UK is in any way an extreme political position and I’m sure that many have voted for UKIP not because they want a UKIP government but because they have nobody else to vote for other than political parties that are even more right wing than UKIP.
But here is the point, if around 4 million people in the UK support UKIP and if polls are correct about 30 million (50%) of the UK want to leave the EU, then that is 26 million people who could not bring themselves to vote for UKIP and who are not represented by the more mainstream political parties on this important issue.
Where are they to go ?
It’s important to differentiate between political parties and those that vote for them.
According to the latest party press releases and media estimates (at 11 August 2015): –
The Conservative Party has around 149,800 members, as of December 2013.
The Labour Party has around 270,000 members, as of August 2015.
The Scottish National Party has around 110,000 members, as of June 2015.
The Liberal Democrat Party has 61,000 members, as of May 2015.
UKIP has around 42,000 members, as of January 2015.
The Green Party (England and Wales) has 61,000 members, as of June 2015.
So, if we accept these figures, and there is no reason not to, then the number of people in the UK who are members of the main political parties is around 695,000, or about 1% of the UK population. Let’s be extremely generous and make it 1.1% of the population and include Plaid Cymru and the parties in Northern Ireland
This 1.1% are very important indeed because they select parliamentary candidates and who is on the party list at European elections.
Of the main political parties all but UKIP and the Democratic Unionist Party are for remaining the EU in the referendum.
My point with all of this should be plain; if 50% of the UK want to leave the EU and the main political parties (about 1.1%) and Remain supporters ( 50%) continue to misrepresent those that wish to leave as right wing, nationalist, bigoted, ignorant, racist, xenophobic extremists then where are the 50% of Brexiteers to put their cross at future elections ?
For Labour especially, this could be a very dangerous issue because Labour are presently attempting to make this a party political issue by misrepresenting a Leave vote with support for a right wing Tory Government led by Boris Johnson. By doing this the Labour Party risks driving working class people that might otherwise support them into the arms of political extremists.
If the main political parties continue to describe or imply that those that wish to vote to leave the EU are right wing, nationalist, bigoted, ignorant, racist, xenophobic extremists – if the UK’s mainstream political centre, as construed and delineated by only 1.1% of parties membership, defines 50% of the UK as ignorant extremists, and they continue to only have few moderate voices representing them, then I fear for the consequences for our country.
Where do I and the other moderate Brexiteers go after the 23rd when the political elites that run our parties have treated us with such disdain ?