This will be my last post on the EU referendum.
It is probably the most important choice put to the UK electorate in the almost 50 years I have been a British Citizen. But regardless of how passionate and scared I am about the outcome on June 24th, I know you can go too far in trying to convince people and end up simply alienating them; as Eddie Izzard did on question time last week...
[when you are sitting next to Nigel Farage in a debate and Nigel starts to look measured you must know you are doing something wrong]
My parting shots to the debate all come from conversations I have had over the weekend and sit under three broad headings.
Question people's motives
I spoke to someone on Friday night who told me that his mind had largely been made up following a conversation with an affable city trader (a decent sort of bloke) who had reassured him that the UK economy would be fine following Brexit. The city would go on making money and based on this he favoured Brexit.
I got the distinct impression that this was a remain own goal. If the campaign hadn't been so relentlessly negative about the UK spinning into an economic black hole of its own making (which of course it won't) then he might have opted for the status quo.
I think this highlights the importance of motives. I am sure that the city trader my friend spoke to came across as friendly, credible and reasonable. But he had a significant vested interest in my friend believing him.
[incidentally if you want to know about where we should be directing our anger, rather than against immigrants and foreigners, you might be interested to know that banks and hedge funds have commissioned exit polls so they can make a profit from the referendum because the broadcasters are not doing any]
So, whichever way you lean or vote please ask yourself what does this person stand to gain by my believing what he has to say?*
Look behind the first line of argument
The second conversation was with my plumber. Who, incidentally, is about as wonderful a plumber as you could wish for. He is British, although his girlfriend is Polish and his concerns are all about the unelected eurocrats who tell us what to do.
Sovereignty has been put front and centre by the Brexit campaign. They argue that British people should make decisions about British laws, which of course sounds like a good thing. Although the argument does hide the, 'nasty foreigners who can't be trusted idea' inside itself. I would suggest that it is not about reclaiming sovereignty, it is about concentrating it in someone else's hands.
Brexit are not arguing to reclaim the power over your life from Johnny Foreigner to give it back to you. They want the power for themselves. And having left the EU, there will be significantly less counterbalancing power. They argue that if we can take back power from the EU at least you will be able to kick them out at the next election if you don't like what they are doing. But they make this argument knowing that we don't actually live in a democracy. The power to influence a British general election is concentrated in the hands of a terrifyingly small group of people and that group includes Rupert Murdoch.
I would never claim that the EU is a beacon of democracy, it isn't. It's what you get when you build compromise on top of compromise. But I would argue that the EU is significantly less vulnerable to minority control than a Brexited UK.
The concept of Boris Johnson claiming to be 'for the people against the elite' ought to make your brain leap outside of your head at its sheer nonsense. Yet we let him get away with it only because the Prime Minister is even more privileged and lacks Boris's self-deprecating charm.
Above all do no harm
The third conversation was the only argument that I had some sympathy with. Over a delightful game of mini-golf with my wife and daughter, my wife's oldest friend explained to me that he was backing Brexit because it might be the first step towards bloody revolution.
He argued that the current state of the nation is so terrible we must do something. The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. What little social cohesion remains is evaporating faster than the ice-caps. Why not blow the whole thing up and start again? It's not as if it could get any worse.
Well, yes it could. Because if we vote to leave, we will effectively be voting to transfer power from one group of elitist, greedy, selfish %$#@ers, without moral compass, who have no understanding of or interest in what life is like for normal people...
To another group of even more elitist, even more greedy, even more selfish but also racist @#$%ers who are simply pretending to care about you because they want your vote.
You don't believe that Donald Trump actually cares about anyone other than himself. Why would you believe them?
Take a tip from doctors. If you are unsure what is going on, first be sure to do no harm. Please vote to remain.
I'll give you a hug if you do.
* Personal disclosure so you can question my motives. I don't think that my family will benefit financially one way or another. My elderly mother's house in France may actually go up in value if Sterling collapses but the value of our house may also go down. I have no shares. My pension will probably be unaffected either way in that I will never be able to afford to retire.