As some of my regular readers are aware, some of my best ideas for blog articles arise as a result of reading the Sun newspaper while having breakfast at Deb’s diner. They will also know that the Sun is NOT my favorite newspaper (but it is the only one on offer and its lack of joined up writing makes it easy to read while eating), besides which I reckon it is a good thing to read stuff that you disagree with if only to sharpen or challenge your own views. Often though, I find myself surprisingly agreeing with the Sun.
So it was today – and true to form its editorial titled “EU skewed” came up trumps. It begins “The PM’s behavior on the EU referendum is enough to make the most shameless despot blush”. It goes on to talk about the £9 million in taxpayers’ cash being blown on a propaganda leaflet and stealing the best civil servants to support his efforts “to skew the referendum odds in his favour”, and ends “maybe he’s seen more and more Brits are moving towards Brexit”. In fairness to the Sun, it tends to be supportive toward the Prime Minister and decidedly anti-Labour (although notably when quizzed on the subject on the Andrew Marr show, Jeremy Corbyn seemed to be supporting the government’s actions, much to the Prime Minister’s relief, no doubt, given the number of Tory Brexit leaning members). In its first editorial, the Sun begins “Labour’s spending plans are in such a mess” (another subject, another day).
So what about the aforementioned “propaganda leaflet”, clearly titled: “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK”? Mine arrived in the post yesterday and in the light of what I read in the Sun I thought I should read it and not be influenced by the comment of one of my euro-skeptic Facebook friends: “Return to sender, not a fair minded document!” I did philosophise beforehand though on whether or not the government should be spending money on this venture, especially as it would be promoting a pro some but not all of the government line. There are of course many precedents, e.g. the 1975 referendum, and it can be argued that a democratically elected government has a mandate for acting in this way. Having said that, it can be argued there has been a shifting of the goal posts (nothing new in that). Rather than leave it to the electorate to decide what to do, as indicated in its manifesto, the government is now going all out to influence it.
But back to the booklet … It is attractively presented and strongly argues the “Remain” case, even if it does not dig too deep when it comes to the facts, although there is nothing new in that. Statements like: “Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to exports to the EU” are not balanced by arguments that the same or equivalent jobs could still be around if the UK came out of the EU. When it comes to the statement “If the EU, voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would risk higher prices of some household goods” there was no room for any argument to the contrary. As for statements like “A vote to leave could mean a decade or more of uncertainty” and “EU membership brings economic security, peace and stability”, these seem to me to amount to scaremongering.
I was disappointed, although going by past experience not surprised, with what I had read, because it insults my intelligence by skimming over the evidence, although the culmination of my deliberations as to whether or not the UK should leave the EU will have to wait until after the local elections, when hopefully the debate, which to date has been disappointing, will have hotted up and I will have studied more of the evidence (not helped by the leaflet). After reading, I went for a walk in the park (the subject of my next blog).