Last week, another poll, this time conducted by ORB for the Independent, saw more people supporting leaving the EU than staying in, although the majority was slender – only 4%. 52% supported withdrawal as against 48% wishing the UK to remain a member of the EU. In ORB’s previous poll, conducted in October, 53% backed staying in and 47% backed leaving.
While any poll giving a majority for exit is better than one giving a majority for staying in, at this stage of the proceedings, it has little significance. Some commentators suggest that support for withdrawal may have spiked as a result of the Paris shootings. On the other hand, Denis McShane, writing in the Independent, claims that the growth in support for withdrawal is driven by “propaganda” which is “nasty and false”. “The isolationists” as McShane misleading refers to supporters of withdrawal, are mounting a “vicious and xenophobic campaign.” McShane even moans about Cameron’s appointment of Open Europe’s Mats Persson, calling him a “Swedish Svengali” and confusingly lumps the think tank with which he was associated into the “Eurosceptic” bracket, even though OE has never wavered in its call for us to remain in the EU.
If the opening salvoes in what is going to be a gruelling campaign have caused the former Labour Minister for Europe to feel thoroughly depressed, this is my no means a bad thing. Alas, this opinion poll is no guide to the likely eventual result of the referendum.
David Cameron has already set his heart on selling a “middle way” – associate membership or the “British Model” as he may prefer to call it – to the electorate. In reality an official relegation to the EU’s second division, outside the inner 19 Euro member states, it will be marketed as the solution to our longstanding problems with the EU. The success of the campaign to leave the EU depends on debunking and exposing what will be the worst of all worlds. People need to be shown how much better life can be outside the EU – to be a free, sovereign nation again, representing ourselves on the world’s real “top tables”, ruled by politicians who are accountable to us and no longer finding our national interests overruled by qualified majority voting in the EU’s Council of Ministers.
In summary, the Paris shootings may cause a spike in support for withdrawal. Hot on its heels have come some pretty depressing immigration statistics, which will do little to make the likes of Denis McShane feel any happier, but the creation of a strong, solid majority in support of independence is not going to be achieved by excessive banging of the immigration drum or fears of terrorist attacks. Virtually all those people who consistently list immigration as their main concern are already signed up for the “leave” camp. There have not been enough of them to put the issue beyond doubt. Different tactics are needed to win round further people for our noble cause and build an unstoppable momentum. The sort of campaign literature which Mr McShane believes to have been so effective recently will not survive Cameron’s onslaught. We must not be deluded – our campaigning still has a long way to go.
Written by John Petley, this article first appeared on Campaign for an Independent Britain