Normally my articles are lengthy as I attempt to reach out to those voters who are either undecided or those who can be persuaded to move over from the remain camp. This article is different. This article is for the Brexiteers themselves. Whichever group or political leaning they happen to belong to, they are all united in trying to achieve the same goal; to permanently free the UK from the shackles of the EU. I promise this article shall be a shorter one. If only slightly!
From the remain campaign we are now hearing mutterings where they claim as the polls are now placing both sides on near equal percentages, the same could be said in the polls during the build up to the 1975 EEC referendum. Yet in 1975 the Yes (remain) went on to win with 67% of the vote on a 65% turnout. The remain campaign are banking on history repeating itself and the electorate voting similarly in 2016 as they did in 1975. If the remain campaign truly believe this I believe they may be shocked by the eventual outcome.
In the intervening years from 1975 to 2016 so much has passed that the two referendums are almost incomparable. Having said that, we can at least contrast the referendums of then and now.
In 1975 all the major parties including Harold Wilson’s incumbent Labour Government, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party supported the Yes vote. Party policy dissent came from the Democratic Unionist Party, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. The only other voices of dissent came from Enoch Powell, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley and Barbara Castle.
By contrast in 2016 there is a lot more discord amongst the MP’s of the major parties. There are over 140 Conservative MP’s alone that back Brexit. The political scene has observed the emergence of UKIP and in great contrast to 1975 has seen a concerted effort from the public at a grassroots level acting under the umbrella of “Brexiteers”, whether they’re a part of Vote Leave, LEAVE.EU, Grassroots Out, Better Off Out or are acting individually as free agents.
In 1975 apart from the Morning Star and The Spectator every tabloid and broadsheet newspaper supported and campaigned to remain in the EEC. At that time newspaper consumption per household was high. By contrast in 2016 the influence from the national press has weakened as sales have drastically fallen. This time the national press though weaker is more balanced with some periodicals leaning towards or even openly supporting Brexit.
In 1975 there were only 3 television channels; BBC1, BBC2 and ITV made up of regional broadcasters. All were in favour of the Yes vote and remaining in the EEC. With only 3 terrestrial channels large swathes of the population in their tens of millions were held captive by openly biased pro EEC propaganda.
By contrast in 2016 mass media has changed beyond recognition. Gone is the age of analogue, replaced by the digital age, satellite television and internet television on demand. The days of mass audiences held captive by the TV set in their living rooms are long gone. The old terrestrial channels may support the remain campaign less overtly in this referendum but their reach has diluted and lessened with so much choice presented to consumers. With hundreds of digital channels to choose from and online entertainment from the internet our options are limitless. This has fragmented consumers and has ensured that the mass media can no longer reach out to tens of millions of the electorate in one single broadcast.
The true difference between the referendums of 1975 and 2016 is a social one. In 1975 there was no internet and no social media, there was nowhere for people to put across their dissent or air their grievances. Instead many remained silent. Facing such an onslaught of constantly biased and inescapable propaganda from the mass media I am aware of many who felt resigned to the Yes vote winning, they ultimately chose to abstain. They felt the outcome was that clear cut.
The greatest difference is that in 1975 the British electorate were voting on whether to remain in the Common Market, where they were informed the EEC was a trade only agreement. If those who voted Yes in 1975 had been made aware of what was to come, that they were in actual fact voting on their own sovereignty, it is intriguing to wonder how many would have changed their vote to No?
In 2016 the British electorate are not voting on the EEC, they are voting on the EU, a vastly different manifestation. In these intervening 41 years since 1975 there have been many who have waited that long for this very opportunity. Sadly, many Brexiteers in the making have long since passed away, but thankfully they have been replaced by younger voters, even though they never got to experience life in the UK before the EU, they too are more than willing to embrace this opportunity.
As we near the climax of the EU referendum campaign there is much for the Brexit camp to take heart from. Not least the utter hysteria from the remain campaign. The hysterical hyperbole of the remain camp has far exceeded my expectations. This can only be due to abject fear on their part.
The 1975 referendum was won at a stroke by the mass media. Not this time. The Brexit campaigns are too many, too diverse for the media to silence their voices. While the remain campaign lumbers along the old path of mass media to push “Project Fear”, the Brexiteers en masse have taken to social media, to Facebook, Twitter, et al and are doing so more convincingly. Both camps may take to canvassing the streets and holding debates, for which all the Brexiteers give grateful thanks to those volunteers, but in this digital age the battle shall be won or lost in the immediate age of social media. Thankfully, those very same canvassers and supporters have taken to social media and are redressing the balance of disinformation in real time. As the campaigns peak and become more heated that real time immediacy shall be more vital than ever.
Whatever the remains think, 2016 shall be nothing like 1975 and that is largely due to all of the Brexiteers campaigning tirelessly to get the message across. For that I doff my hat and salute you for your efforts. If every one of us can convince just one person to vote leave, then we have a chance. If we can each convince two voters and more, there is a very good chance that the majority of the British electorate shall choose Brexit and will vote leave! Personally, I am proud to call myself a Brexiteer.