First Epping Forest, then the world
London4Europe Committee Member Michael Romberg writes.
London4Europe's Chair, Richard Newcombe, moonlights as Chair of EM Waltham Forest 4 Europe. In that capacity he wrote recently to the Epping Forest Guardian calling for a referendum under the banner We need to know the will of the people in 2019.
The local press - both on paper and online - is an under-utilised resource for Remain campaigners. Local press is seen as a surprisingly trustworthy source of local news according to a survey undertaken for local press campaign group Local Media Works. The tables have not been published. But it was undertaken by Yougov - so there will be some foundation to the claim.
For campaigners, there are real advantages. Local papers are stretched and have cut back on journalists. Letters are cheap, so there is a high likelihood of being published. All papers and online sites encourage debate because that makes people return (and look at the advertisements). So a letter that responds to an earlier letter is particularly likely to be published.
Analyses of who it is that people trust shows that politicians and celebrities generally score badly; "people like us" score highly. So a letter that makes clear your connexion to the local area will go down well.
Many people have strong views on Brexit and wish to express them - local media provide an outlet. Of course we can always make Brexit a local issue. Several local campaign organisations have published specifically local material:
- Lambeth for Europe have published Brexit Stories - how Brexit is harming local businesses.
- Some local campaign organisations, eg EM Ealing, have carried out surveys of local businesses.
- Some councils have made local Brexit impact assessments which can be publicised.
- We can always relate a national Brexit issue to the local hospital, a local haulage company, a diverse local community.
Local campaign organisations vary in how much they use the local press. EM Wandsworth and Merton has a particularly full In the Press section of published letters to the press, articles they have written and articles about them (they are really big in Scandinavia - a reminder to think local act global).
It's something that you can do on your own and intermittently, when you have a bit of time.
With a bit of organisation a group of you or a local campaigning body can have more impact:
- It helps to have a team who check the newspapers and spot opportunities (news reports, letters to respond to).
- Then some of you to write - newspapers will probably wish to have a bit of a pause between publishing letters from one individual. Correcting Leavers' actual falsehoods is always good, though proper factchecking does take a bit of work. Make an argument - our blogs and Brexit backgrounders will help you to get started. Use local letters to support whatever campaign you are running in the area.
- Remember the after sales service: once a letter is published it will attract online comments. It would be good to have a person tasked to keep an eye on the comments and intervene. If you look in the comments under Richard Newcombe's letter you will see comments from RemainerRog - also a London4Europe member.
- Finally, let other campaigners know so that they can be inspired by your letter to write themselves to their local papers. You can send it to other London campaign bodiesthat might be interested. If you publish it as a blog on your local group website we can pick it up for our New Blogs e-mail. Or send it to us for publication as a blog: firstname.lastname@example.org
In case the link is not working, the text of Richard's letter is set out below:
We need to know the will of the people in 2019
On Saturday March 23, more than one million people marched in central London asking that a Vote is ‘Put to the People’ on our future relationship with the European Union.
However, with none of the promises made by the Leave campaign in 2016 being remotely possible, their argument is now to carry out what was the ‘will of the people’. No more easy trade deals, no more ‘this will hurt them more than us’, no more extra funding for the NHS: instead threats of job losses, threats to security, higher prices, lack of medical supplies. All the options on the table will make the UK poorer apart from Remain.
The last thing we need as we see our police force stretched, police stations closed, our public services having to do more and more with less and less, is to put businesses under threat and reduce the amount of funding through taxation going to the Exchequer to eventually improve the situation. Not yet another round of austerity.
The latest YouGov poll (January 17) shows 48 per cent for Remain and 40 per cent for Leave. So in 2019 is this now what the people want? The real ‘Will of the People’. From 2016 we have learnt so much about the EU itself as compared to what we were told in the referendum campaign and in much of the press over the past 40 years.
Some people were open and told researchers that they have changed from Leave to Remain, but the big change has come from young people who have come of age to vote in 2019. They want the advantages and opportunities in their future lives that being a full member of the EU can bring.
It is very hard for someone openly to admit that in 2016 they were wrong so imagine those who will change their vote in the anonymity of a ballot booth.
As we look on in amazement at Meaningful Votes 4,5, etc,taking place and failure to get Indicative Votes to coalesce around one option in the House of Commons, let us have the ‘will of the people of 2019’ put to the test in a second referendum now that we know so much more about the EU.
Chair of London4Europe and Waltham Forest European Movement