Newspeak is the controlled language of Oceania created by The Party to limit freedom of thought and freedom of expression—and, while our world is not that of Winston Smith, contemporary politicians and contemporary journalists do use words to constrain the parameters of “acceptable” debate.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this in an EU context is the tedious way in which anti-Brexit voices use the word “Europe” to mean the EU. Europe the continent is full of lots of things that British people rather like—Britain for a start!—music, culture, civility, classical architecture, a rich and varied history and European, sometimes referred to as Western, civilisation. The EU, not so much.
Another example is the way in which legacy media outlets refer to the EU referendum as a contest between an “In” and an “Out” campaign. This should be a cause for concern among campaign groups on both sides of the debate. In their invaluable history of Britain’s only previous plebiscitary vote on the issue of Britain’s membership of the organisation that became the European Union, The 1975 Referendum, co-authors David Butler and Uwe Kitzinger explain:
most pollsters believed that although phrasing could make a great difference in a hypothetical situation, at the end of a fully publicised campaign where the issue was clear the actual question wording would matter little.
In short, if we do not make the issue clear then the risk of an illegitimate referendum result increases. It is therefore the responsibility (née obligation) of everybody involved in the referendum to establish that we are making a choice to determine whether we wish for Britain to “remain” in or “leave” the European Union. The press has an especially important role to play in the sense that the Code of Practice issued and enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) says, the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and “whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”.
As for the politicians, their latest wheeze—designed to ensure that the campaign centres around them rather than the people who really matter (the British electorate)—is to label their campaign organisation Grassroots Out. As I pointed out to Kate Hoey on Twitter, “Describing a campaign established by politicians as ‘grassroots’ does not make it grassroots”.
The Grassroots Out organisation is going to have to prove its credentials in that regard. Stump speeches delivered by second-tier politicians does not constitute grassroots activity.
For my part, I shall be doing what I can to promote the only viable Brexit plan that has yet been presented, in the hope that people will understand the real opportunity that this referendum affords.
The referendum gives us a vote and the Internet gives us a voice, we have no need of politicians or journalists to “represent” our views.
As fellow Brexit blogger, UK Independence points out, the power of the British electorate is enough to turn the head of the most powerful man on the planet. Think about it.
I do not think that ordinary voters have even begun to understand just how powerful they really are.
David Cameron says that his aim is to negotiate a “new settlement” for Britain in a “reformed EU”. The fact that he has singularly failed to deliver any reform whatsoever is notable. More important still is the alternative vision that Flexcit outlines—a new settlement for governors with the governed in a reformed UK.
That is something for which it really is worth campaigning.