During the Scottish referendum, there was a level of vitriol that was impassioned but never quite bitter. It was passionate but seldom were there personal attacks which boiled into outright ad hominem. Certainly if they did, they were rare next to a debate that was brutal but, on the whole, something to be proud of.
The EU referendum, on the other hand, has proven to be a slovenly affair that hasn’t even tried to bring itself up to the mark of ideological vision.
Working in Spain and observing the debate I’m filled with a profound sense of disappointment and embarrassment. The Spanish are not EU sycophants, but given the epoch changing nature of a potential Brexit, there has been a remarkable level of mud shovelling from both the Remain and Leave campaigns. It’s the worst kind of nationalism that it is cartoonish in its detail and analysis.
If Boris Johnson’s comparison of the EU to Hitler’s grand vision wasn’t bad enough, then it was David Cameron soothsaying genocide and World War Three if Britain elects to leave that tipped the balance from bad campaigns into farce.
Given the EU has ticked by, mostly unnoticed for 40 years, it’s remarkable that now, at the eleventh hour, politicians are bothering to make such grand statements about its impact. Normally criticising Brussels is the convention, yet even the ghost of diktats past have evaporated. Now it’s sweeping, grandiose and inflammatory statements which are too ridiculous to be believed or of any use to anyone who has even a basic understanding of how the EU actually works.
As a country, it’s wrong to the suggest the buck rests squarely with politicians. The EU has been a neglected beast existing in the background, evolving but increasingly misunderstood by the public for decades.
That no effort has been made to remedy this, despite regular EU parliamentary elections, is a defining example of how low political discourse sinks after decades of neglect.