Sunday 13 January 2013

How not to win an EU referendum

Under the headline “Ken Clarke and Peter Mandelson join forces to fight Eurosceptics”, today’s Observer reports that “Tory and Labour grandees” are to join forces “to turn back the rising tide of Euroscepticism”.

This is precisely what the pro-EU cause doesn’t need. A major reason for euroscepticism is the popular perception that the EU is as an elite project. Putting political grandees (especially exhausted volcanoes like Clarke and Mandelson) at the head of the campaign serves only to reinforce that perception. The support of such politicians is not unwelcome but the campaign has to create the right overall impression.

An effective pro-EU campaign must counter the perception that it is elitist. A previous post suggested how this could be done. In any event, if the campaign is to succeed, it must learn from the experience of community politics – it should empower and enable, and mobilise the interests and voices of ‘people like us’. If the campaign consists of ‘grandees’ telling people what is good for them, it will fail.

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