Tonight we heard probably the most important Brexit statement possible!
I’ve attended a number of Brexit talks and debates and so far, tonight’s at Tonbridge School in the EM Forster Theatre, organised by The West Kent Chamber of Commerce proved the most interesting.
Two eminent quest speakers graced the stage alongside West Kent Chamber President, Victoria Sampson. For REMAIN – Charlotte Vere, Executive Director of Conservatives IN. For LEAVE – John Longworth, who recently resigned as the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.
A simple but tested format had both guests each give a roughly fifteen minute talk on their viewpoint before taking questions from the room.
From the IN campaign we had facts and figures, contested by the OUT campaign, who brought no figures but plenty of rhetoric.
So what was the most noteworthy comment of the whole evening?
It was actually a question from a young lady, aged twenty-two. Very simply she said, ‘You’re asking me to make a decision about the future of my country, about my future and yet neither of you have given me anything I can use to help me understand why I should vote one way or another. How do I know what the implication is?’
Her point was quite simple, there was lots of talk but the message was still one of ‘trust what I’m saying,’ and not so much, here are the real facts behind the bluster. I feel incredibly disappointed that neither representative really seemed to take on board the young ladies dilemma. All of the figures shown tonight needed clarification, we all know statistics can say what we want them to say. Give us more explanation of what they are really telling us, not just the figures to prove your point. Oh and by the way Leave campaigners, if you are going to keep telling me how Europe votes down Britain, tell me what the topics are please. Is it ‘what sprinkles should be on a magnum? Or should we have blue Smarties, ah but we must have won that one!
I wouldn’t imagine that any Managing Director, if asked by a member of staff, ‘How do I do my job?’, would turn round and say, ‘look it up on the internet!’
I know it was a long day, I know Mr Longworth was at his fourth debate but really, that is not the way to respond to the question from a voter. The Leave Campaign and the Stay Campaign for that matter, should, in my opinion hold themselves responsible to provide the information that people require, I don’t expect it all to appear magically at a debate but please create a repository of information that is easy to access.
We all have our time spent searching the internet for the information we think we need, the problem is, what should we believe? Which are the reputable reports and statistics. Where do we go for unbiased commentary? Which websites can we trust?
There should be two impeccable sources for us to read, shouldn’t there?
Each generation has a responsibility to create a better future for those who follow. History tells us not every age has managed to do that. How will we be judged?
The young lady tonight has a challenge, to decide what her world will be for the next fifty years plus. She seemed to take that responsibility much more seriously than many people I can think of and she has my respect completely for that, for at the age of twenty-two actually giving a damn and she deserved better on the night. She wants to make an informed decision not be sold an idea. People today want to understand, if they can do that then they can begin to believe in something.
Now, this next bit isn’t aimed at the people on stage, it is a generalisation about this whole subject and the run up to the vote. I tire of hearing from people who don’t have to think that far ahead. I tire of listening to pseudo intellectuals who want to sound impressive and have a point they want to make, not necessarily one we need to hear. This is not a subject that should turn into a points scoring exercise and I had hoped that tonight’s debate would get away from all that.
I don’t enjoy listening to someone make an argument for such a monumental decision based upon, ‘look who I align myself with, judge me by them.’ and I’m not sure I trust what the economists have to say. If you ask, do they all get it wrong? Well I’ve lived through three crashes so yes, they do get it wrong, time and again.
Neither speaker had any credibility with me when they walked into the room. Whatever they felt they brought in gravitas was wasted on me, I knew them not from Adam. They were there to make a case, to convince me they had substance and credibility, they had a job to do, to convince me of the reasons why I should pay attention to their side of the debate. It was a massive job to do in a very short space of time, what I didn’t want to see was a disdain for the voters, an attitude of, ‘well why wouldn’t you just do as I say and follow me.’ I wanted substance and perhaps I got a little more from one side than the other.
I would have been really impressed if one or both of the speakers tonight had responded to the young lady with, ‘we didn’t have time to cover all the things you need to hear, speak to me, email me, whatever and I’ll give you the information you want.’
More impressive would have been, ‘Get in touch and list the questions you have for us then we’ll address them for you.’ because to be honest, her dilemma is no different to the one facing people twice her age.
So what is my synopsis overall?
I have previously said to a number of people, ‘I think the Stay campaign does a good job of making people want to Vote Leave.’
Tonight I think the Leave campaign did a good job of making a case to vote Stay but in reality I think both campaigns show a lack of understanding of what voters need to hear. There is too much sniping between the campaigns. Both sides have responsibility to stop spouting and start informing. Ask your voters what they want and need to hear then address those points.
Finally and in fairness to both speakers, I don’t know if either spoke to that young lady afterwards, I’d love to hear if they did and well done if it happened.
Thank you again West Kent Chamber and both guest speakers, it was the best Brexit evening I have attend yet and I do commend all involved. I’m sure everyone there go something from it and all feel very differently about the evening and the topic.
Everyone in the wider debate please listen to a twenty-two year old and start to help people decide and remember you have a duty to future generations, do us proud and handle this debate with the respect and gravity it deserves.
There could be two casualties at the end of this referendum. Britain may be a casualty, however there is a real casualty already, the Political Process and its credibility is definitely damaged and Politicians need to learn how to be human beings and talk to, not down to, the electorate. Engage people sensibly, rationally and the process gains validity, it is about people’s lives and futures, it isn’t about theatre; carry on as you are and more people will switch off in future.
Written 7th June 2016 (rather late in the evening so please forgive the rambling)