So, there I was – broom at the ready, waiting for the call that never came. It was five years ago and I was eager to sign-up for the Big Society. Would I be sweeping someone else’s dry sick away from the pavement, my head proudly sporting a paper hat with David Cameron’s face on it as an advert for my gullible stupidity? I was ready to volunteer to do something soul-destroying for free, eschewing the payment demanded by those council workers who at least fulfilled the state’s obligation to do its dirty work in exchange for a fee. And now, half-a-decade later, I’m furtively fixated on the letter box for a sight of the government’s explanation on why leaving the EU wouldn’t be a good idea. I’m sure it’ll be a concise and honest document that nobody could dispute the facts of.
I often wonder what it would be like to embrace bullshit with unthinking enthusiasm, to take every government edict at face value and do as I’m told without questioning the wisdom of my elected superiors. I would be measuring the amount I drank each week and once I’d reached my limit I’d not touch another drop; I would stop smoking and I’d drop everything from my diet that could induce an excess of calories and cholesterol; I would indulge in regular exercise, but wouldn’t overdo it for fear of provoking a heart attack; I would certainly avoid illegal substances and wouldn’t even contemplate a sexual act that is frowned upon; I’d spend at least three hours every Saturday afternoon purchasing goods I don’t want in order to ensure the high-street remains the beating heart of the economy; I’d try not to be too creative as that could deny me profitable employment at best and could signify a strain of mental illness at worst; I’d steer clear of sun-beds, legal highs, e-cigs, poppers and pornography and would police my vocabulary in order that I’d never say anything liable to cause offence. I’d wait with bated breath for every piece of advice issued by the particular government department entrusted with taking care of my best interests.
Don’t know about you, but I’ve been receiving regular emails from some branch of the Remain campaign over the past few weeks, ones that always open with my name, as though I’m being personally addressed by a chum. All very matey, I must say, as my support for staying in the EU has made me part of a team. Ain’t it great to belong? The only snag in my recruitment to the cause is that I never actually signed-up for it. As a confirmed ‘don’t know’ on this subject, I haven’t committed myself to either camp, so where do my pals in the Remain group get the idea that I am? The electoral register has a lot to answer for.
Occasionally, I glance at the contents of my Spam box and am bemused by the number of organisations that appear to crave my company and have a habit of disguising their sales pitch as a message from a friend. Although the Remain side of this European Hokey Cokey have yet to be directed to the same destination, as a perverse curiosity compels me to briefly scan their missives, I resent the presumption on their part that I’m singing from the same hymn sheet, just as I would if the Brexit bunch did likewise. That the latter have yet to do so perhaps underlines the crucial difference between their respective PR machines.
And now Gideon has been on his platform again to toss some scaremongering scraps down at the plebs. Taking the Brexit route would cost us all more than £4,000 a year; it would reduce the economy by 6% once we reach 2030 and would leave a black hole in the public finances of a staggering £36 billion! Right, that’s my mind made up. Just as well I’m already part of the team (according to my emails); now I’d better hit the streets and start campaigning. The economy will be 4% greater if we stay where we are, and if Mr Osborne says it’s true, then it must be. He tells us the poor would be hit hardest by a Brexit outcome – what, more than they’ve been hit by his own punitive punishments over the last six years? I had no idea.
Several Tory bigwigs, as well as a few fossils most thought were too busy snoozing in the Lords to get involved, have come out in favour of coming out. Boris, Gove and IDS are backed by the leading Fleet Street grande dames, leaving the Remain campaign to contemplate alternate means of getting their message across. The time-honoured impartiality of television is obliged to give equal airtime to both points of view, so they’ve resorted to the email and the good old-fashioned printed letter, assuming anyone lucky enough to receive them won’t treat them with the same disregard as they do the flyers promoting B.O.G.O.F. deals at their local pizza emporium.
For all the support the Brexit team are keen to claim, they lack the financial clout of their opposition and cannot compete when it comes to slick and efficient PR outside of the impartial TV arena. Does this make it a fair fight? I wouldn’t have thought so. But if the Remain posse reckon blitzing the nation’s inboxes and letter boxes with their side of the argument will seal a victory for them, they haven’t reckoned with a populace both tired and mistrustful of government advice, one whose instinctive reaction to being told what to do is to go and do the opposite.
© The Editor