EU Election Blues
Here are some truths.
1 The Remain Parties may or may not be able to work together. There are official rules that stop some types of cooperation and there is not a huge amount of time for the parties to get a grip and come to some agreements on other ways of working together.
2 We have little control of whether parties can work together. Party tribalism has played a massive part in this mess we are now in. It hasn’t just disappeared overnight, and we can’t pretend it has. The raison d’être of political parties is to get seats so they can deliver their policies.
3 We need MEPs who will take their responsibilities seriously in looking after our interests as EU citizens and not be trying to take us out of the EU against our will.
4 We are going into these elections hanging onto our EU citizenship by the skin of our teeth. The forces that want us to leave are still there, whether by action or inaction from Westminster parliament.
It’s not surprising therefore, that we are struggling to work out what is best to do given these facts, but there is no need for us to panic or beat ourselves or, more importantly, each other up. Every step of this journey we have taken together has been uncharted territory, a maze of strategies and options and we haven’t always gone the right way at first and sometimes people have taken different branches, but somehow, most of us always backtrack the blind alleys and we find ourselves here, together, still with the same end goal in mind, to retain our EU citizenship. We also have a far greater sense of why the European Parliament is important and why we need to fill it with representatives committed to the European Project, it’s development, it’s success and the rights and benefits for the ordinary citizens of its members which it protects. If we need to take a little time and a little investigation and a little debate as to how we can best support those two things , that’s okay.
We saw Ukip Mk II getting wall to wall coverage and we saw old now more extreme Ukip being given a platform over the course of a weekend and we had a scary poll thrown at us and we all panicked, me included. But it’s just one poll and only time will show us whether we are to be concerned. We saw UKIP extreme being challenged on the BBC and one wonders if that was simply to make UKIP Mk II look less extreme. But they are both deeply negative parties, they have no positive policies, only to hate and shout and be angry and leave, quit, give up slam the door in a tantrum and leave the building. Let’s concentrate on continuing to shine a light on their negativity versus our positivity because we don’t quit.
I must address some big Remain twitter accounts, sorry if you aren’t on twitter it will only take a moment. PLEASE PLEASE STOP talking to us as if we are idiots or as if you know best all the time and we know nothing. We need to have strategy discussions without being told we are rubbish. There is no one remain party or organisation. When you talk about the remain campaign, you are talking about us the thousands of activists who spend our free time working towards a People’s Vote. We don’t ask for much because we just get on with it but a little respect and humility instead of a barrage of negativity wouldn’t go amiss because it’s us doing the heavy lifting up and down the country. If you mean politicians talk about the politicians but they are not the heart of Remain. We are.
So back to our dilemma, what to do immediately? Well let’s do what we have the most control over first. Our regional activists and other campaign groups have already recognised and got plans underway for their street campaigns to encourage voter registration and turn out. We need to get accurate information out to EU27 citizens about their right to vote and how to register and a concerted effort to motivate under 34s to register and vote. If we can get a massive chunk of Remain supporters out and voting in an election who previously didn’t bother, that on its own will help us immensely. Support these groups, these initiatives designed to these ends, we don’t have to tell them how to vote, just get them to consider the manifestos and vote because if nobody votes that sends a poor signal out.
Labour, this is my plea to you. If you are to put forward your excellent MEPS who do fully support the future of the European Project, you can only undermine them if your manifesto is not clearly in support of Remain or the very least a People’s Vote. You cannot have clear EU policies for the European Parliament if you are thinking you are going to leave. It’s a contradiction in terms, this is what you need to get your heads around.
The smaller Remain parties we understand you are good Europeans; we know you want the European Parliament to be a success, but you will all be out anyway if we cannot stop Brexit, so please do whatever you can to cooperate with each other with this in mind.
As to strategy, let’s be prepared to take a flexible approach in the next few weeks, as we see the manifestos and any commitments to cooperate between parties. We may well need tactical voting, we should not rule it out, so we need to watch the polls, collect the data carefully and, on our streets, stalls we need to listen to feedback from our visitors and report it back. As all this information comes in the best strategy may become obvious.
So in brief do this.
Support voter registration and turnout initiatives
Get everyone in your sphere of influence in the mindset to vote.
Write to parties to ask them to find a way to cooperate if they can.
Put pressure on Labour to put forward a clear manifesto
Stop constantly demotivating tired grass-roots campaigners.
AND Stop panicking.