The Say No to Eu Tour came to Kessingland. And I went to it – along with three friends. I am definitely pro-European – I am married to one and I want this nation to stay in the European Union. I booked tickets and went along to the event because it was billed as a fair and open debate. I thought it would be interesting and anyway it’s profitable to learn how the other side thinks.
It wasn’t a fair and open debate. This was Ukip staging a show designed to promote them as the good and sensible guys. There were two speakers for each side – all fair and equitable so far. But on the ‘leave the E.U.’ side the speakers were two men, one of them intelligent and articulate – the Ukip Member of Parliament for the East of England Patrick O’Flynn and the other was Ukip Waveney Chairman Simon Tobin, who appealed because he just spoke of local issues (the bridge!!).
On the opposing side – ‘remain in the E.U.’ – was a woman. Enough said. There was never a chance of her getting a platform from which she could expect a listening, respectful audience. This audience, predominantly elderly male, are set in their ways; their wives are at home preparing the cocoa. The speaker, Laura Sandys is Chair of the European Movement UK. She left before the evening was properly finished because – well, what is the point?
Backing her up, on her team, was a local guy. I don’t want to mention his name because all I’m going to do is malign him. He is a Lib Dem local activist. I wanted him to do well; in fact he, for me, was one of the draws of the evening. He is an underdog and traditionally we all want the underdog to win. He came across as an alien doing work experience on planet earth. I tried to listen but if the manner of the speaker obfuscates the message that’s not the listeners’ fault is it?
Politics is dirty. This was a staged event – possibly staged here because of the latent anger over fishing quotas. Patrick O’Flynn did a good job of getting people’s blood up – he made good use of his eyebrows to orchestrate the crowd, whilst seeming to be polite and respectful during the opponents’ speeches.
I saw that the ‘leave’ voters (over 80 % of the crowd) were like an angry, jubilant mob who wanted to be proved right – and they think that they have done that. At one point they shouted and jeered about the Syrian refugees – to further their point that this country is for ‘us’ and we need to keep ‘them’ out – whoever they are. I theorise that many people, when it comes to a debate, choose which side they are on according to their own temperament; they then find reasons to back their choice.
I am looking forward to properly weighted debates. Either that or ghettos could be set up so the voters who don’t want to mix with the rest of the world can happily stay inside them.