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Should I stay or should I go now

If I go there will be trouble
An’ if I stay it will be double

I got home this afternoon to find the post-box stuffed with a leaflet from the Electoral Commission, explaining the EU Referendum and how I can cast my vote.

I’ve not read it all the way through, but my best guess is that I cast my vote in a very similar way to the way I did it all those years ago in the proportional representation referendum. Remember that? The concession that Nick Clegg won as part of his coalition deal. In hindsight, he, might have been better just sticking with the status quo and negotiating for something else. Not charging tuition fees perhaps, which might have saved his political skin.

Anyway, the difference between that referendum and this one is that, by and large, one is an issue about which many people were either not that fussed or didn’t really understand. The other is one about which they think they have very clear view, but probably haven’t thought through the full implications.

The trouble is, there is so much vitriol being bandied by and towards both sides, that the electorate is in danger of getting fed up with the whole thing. There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha over a TV debate between Cameron and Farage that ITV suggested running. The Leave campaign reckoned that by not including their highest profile campaigners – Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – the TV station would effectively be nailing its flag to the Stay mast. They have a point, it has to be said. Farage’s media persona (possibly an unfair portrayal) is that of the golf-club bore, pint in hand, banging on about little old England versus Johnny Foreigner. Johnson and Gove tend to be taken more seriously.

And now Farage has announced that, unless a Stay win is by a huge majority, the Leave campaign won’t just leave it should they lose, arguing that there would be “unstoppable demand” for a second referendum. I’m sorry, Nigel old chap, but that just sounds like you’re saying “we will keep asking the question until we get the answer we want”. The sort of behaviour one might expect from one of those old-fashioned totalitarian dictator-run countries.

In the BMJ office we’ve been keeping an eye on the way the Yes/No vote seems to be swinging in this industry and all our polls – not that they are particularly scientific – seem to indicate that the industry is split, pretty evenly between Leave, Stay and I really haven’t a clue.

Still, as we found out at the last election, polls can be spectacularly wrong. The Scottish Referendum was predicted to be a close run thing; in the end, it was less close than people thought. And the less said about the pre-election polls the better. So the EU Referendum could go any way, though my gut instinct tells me it will be a Stay, if only because we, as a nation, tend to like to stick with what we know.

I’ve mentioned before that we are pretty stymied whatever happens. We either vote to go and end up in paperwork hell for a gazillion years or we vote to stay and have to sit there while Frau Merkel and the others smirk at our egg-on-face predicament.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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