It’s been a weekend of political activity in Europe and the US. Here are some of the things that have struck me.
1 How is it that the best exponent of the UK remaining in Europe seems, so far, to be the Scottish National Party that wants to leave the UK? Following its success in establishing Scottish independence in the mainstream and narrowly missing victory in a vote to leave the UK, the SNP understands that the In campaign has to appeal to hearts, not just to heads, and use emotion as well as logic. The Out campaign will appeal to voters with its vision of the UK and there needs to be a vision of the UK in Europe to set against that. I’m not discerning any great In vision being communicated south of the border so far.
2 Will the decision about remaining in or leaving the EU manage to raise itself above a debate about immigration? What reasons will be given to remain in and to leave? How will those be presented to voters so that the costs and benefits of each approach can be seen easily and clearly? My hopes of this aren’t high at the moment.
3 I know David Cameron needed to show that he’d battled for Britain, but couldn’t there have been a little more acknowledgement in his Brussels speech on Friday evening of steps taken by other EU member states to accommodate the UK? I know he was playing to a UK audience and the Out campaign would be parsing every word, but I didn’t hear an acknowledgement of the help received from other countries. I’m sure thanks were given in private, but I do hope good manners aren’t going through the window during the referendum campaign.
4 It would also be heartening to hear acknowledgement that the EU isn’t our enemy. I know there are differences of view about the EU, but we do have a lot in common. Could campaigners, please, remember that?
5 Journalists: I don’t care about the politics of the personalities on each side of the debate and how they might have their roots in school-day competitiveness. The referendum is more important than that.
6 Turning to the US, how does a 70-odd year old senator from Vermont become “cool” with college students? Yes, he’s proposing free college tuition and various healthcare initiatives, but cool?
7 I remain fascinated with the US take on populism. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be the output of focus groups looking for a popular leader, but perhaps that’s the point.
8 The US voted for change in 2008 (and more of that in 2012), so why is more change – and more populist change – needed in 2016? What does that say about the ability to deliver change – and, therefore, the various candidates?
9 There are more than four months to go before the referendum vote in the UK – and double that until the US presidential election. Dig in – or tune out.