A personal view from Head of News and Sport Mark Dunford on sifting the facts from the propaganda in the EU debate.
We wunt be druv’ is the unofficial motto of Sussex - and proudly proclaims that the peoples of our county will not be forced against their will.
Tomorrow (Thursday, June 23), we will all have the opportunity to vote in the most important referendum in our lifetimes - our membership of the European Union.
You would think it was a free choice, that indeed we wouldn’t ‘be druv’, to support one side of another - but campaigners have created a huge amount of noise to distract us from the key issues and to cajole us into supporting their point of view.
So if you are still undecided whether to vote to Remain or to Leave, these are ten tests to sift the facts from the propaganda.
1 Ignore the hyperbole. Exaggerated claims that your vote will lead to economic ruin, wreck national security, and destroy world peace, should be treated with caution. The Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear that it is the first duty of any government to keep our country and our people safe. He should be trusted that he would not have called the EU referendum and guaranteed to implement its decision if one of the possible outcomes could put us in jeopardy.
2 Focus on the issues - not the personalities. This is not a general election. It is not about the people who will govern us for the next five years. It is about structures and the long-term journey for our country over the next 50 years. So disregard the qualities of the people putting forward the arguments and focus instead on the messages they are giving. David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, and Nigel Farage have merely walk-on, walk-off parts in a drama that will shape the futures of our grand-children.
3 Look to the long-term and be wary of those who have a vested interest in a particular outcome. Corporate business leaders are driven entirely by the short-term - quarterly reporting and year-end bonuses. Politicians rarely see beyond the next general election and what they need to do in the short-term to keep the electorate sweet. Pay special attention to businessmen who have a sustained track record of investing in Britain and creating jobs.
4 Don’t be intimidated. Ignore name-calling. Leavers will deride EU civil servants as Eurocrats. Remainers will brand those who want to leave as ‘Little Englanders’ or even ‘racists.’ This type of mud-slinging is bullying of the worst kind. There’s a great trick too, often played out on social media, of implying that one choice is morally superior to another. The British people will decide in their vote which is the superior option - until then neither Remain nor Leave has the moral high ground.
5 Trust those people who have your best interests at heart. Too often, so called experts, have their own agenda - whether it is continued funding for their research work or an endless supply of cheap labour from Eastern Europe. That doesn’t mean their opinion can’t be valuable - but understand it in the context it is given.
6 Apply commonsense and keep things simple. Too often arguments are presented in complex language that makes them appear more reliable than they are. Take every message and apply it to your own life. Does it make sense to you? If not, discount it.
7 Risk is a good thing. Too often, risk is presented as harmful. Well, it can be if applied without discernment. But it is also an essential partner of success and opportunity. A world without risk is a stagnant and decaying one.
8 Have a clear vision of the type of future you want for you, your family, and your community. For many people it’s not simply about the economy, immigration or sovereignty. It’s about your quality of life, your heritage, your culture, and the opportunities you might have to fulfil your personal dreams and ambitions.
9 Don’t expect anyone to accurately predict the future - and don’t believe them if they say they can. Novelist LP Hartley said the past was a foreign country and they do things differently there. Equally, the future is an unexplored land and no-one can tell you precisely what to expect.
10 Vote for hope - not fear. Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy. It became so, not by chance but through the innovation, determination and optimism of its people. Vote to Remain in the EU if you believe that gives us the best opportunities in the future. Vote to Leave if you think we can fare better working on the global stage outside the European political union.
You will have your own tests too. What matters most is not how you vote but that you do so and for reasons which are wholly positive and make sense to you. Be inspired by the opportunity this referendum affords - and not depressed by it. Our forebears wouldn’t ‘be druv’. Nor should we.