Every political campaign eventually enters a silly season. Apocalyptic scenarios are invoked; pledges are carved into stone; statistics are rendered meaningless. Even the dead aren’t safe as our great icons are dragged up and ventriloquized by either side. For the EU referendum the shift from apathy to absurdity has been sudden and overwhelming. One day we were discussing the benefits of a common market and the next we are hearing about the fulfilment of Nazi dreams for European domination and our collective fight for survival against terrorism and environmental oblivion. Today we discover –to no one’s great surprise- that the great and good of British film and theatre think our membership feeds the country’s creative juices. Many of the signatories to this Remain letter are the self-same luvvies that are simultaneously bemoaning the obliteration of creativity beckoned by the EU’s TTIP and its threat to national arts subsidies.
Who benefits from all this histrionic noise? There is an argument that for the Leavers any further campaigning is a waste of breath. The over 50s are rekindling their baby booming radicalism and will take a punt on Brexit. Millennials, on the other hand, are a boring lot; as well as being more sober, careerist and monogamous than previous generations they will opt for remaining. The crux, however, is turnout. Where the older groups can be relied on to find their way to the village hall to cast their vote younger demographics are notoriously forgetful.
It follows that a high turnout will favour the In crowd. The strategy of the Remainers has been to egg on Brexiters and steadily increase the volume. Rather than indulging the shock and awful tactics of Farage and excusing Boris’s historical tangents the Out campaign missed a golden opportunity to win over the undecided. Groups like these are spooked by the spectre of uncertainty. The referendum should have been about two sides fighting over the middle ground: is it the status quo to remain or is Europe changing at such a rate that a Brexit is the only way to preserve what we have? Instead the debate has been thrust onto the fringes and sensible argument has been drowned out.