After awful events of last week, and the violent murder of a clearly brilliant young woman, I stopped the in/out debate, as we were all asked to do. I'm sure we all feel huge sympathy for her family, friends and colleagues.
So, before anybody starts engaging in the EU referendum debate again, I'd like to make a couple of points based on the various popular posts doing the rounds on social media during the period when campaigning was supposedly suspended.
1. Being sympathetic to the case for Brexit does not make anyone a supporter of murder, attacks on MPs or street violence in France. We need to tone down the anger and bitterness...
2. Contemplating an OUT vote does not mean out voters want to usher in an era of neo-Nazi government in the UK. Nigel Farage standing in front of a poster with refugees on it may well be an unpleasant image, but it hardly makes that buffoonish character the re-incarnation of Josef Goebbels.
3. The case for IN and OUT crosses party lines. Suggestions that the good liberal thing to do is vote IN are not reflected by the voices that are speaking in favour of OUT, but seemingly not being heard by the media. The RMT, the Fire Brigades Union, Labour Leave, are all clear Brexiteers: how Left can you get? That contradiction seems lost in the social media noise.
4. A vote for OUT is not necessarily a vote for racism. I noticed that the industry body for Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants with an incredible 12,000 restaurant members across the UK is of the view that EU policy is racist and discriminatory and supports Brexit. 80 Commonwealth community leaders from diverse communities around the world wrote to David Cameron in February asking for the UK to take back control of its 'discriminatory migration and trade policies' from the EU. There is much ambiguity here too.
5. For many this campaign is not about immigration, it is about the direction of travel of the EU, and fears about democracy and freedom, economic collapse within the Eurozone, and a desire to see our politicians directly accountable to us for the decisions they make. Those are perfectly legitimate concerns and they need to be heard, not drowned out by a metropolitan liberal consensus Twittering memes with fingers in their ears. Go to Greece where I've been doing business this year and make many of the Remain arguments about democracy in Brussels and you'll be laughed out of the country.
6. We have a short period left to debate the issues, I'd like to do so with the substance and range of voices fully heard. There are ethnic minority OUT groups, there are hard Left OUT groups, there are lesbian and gay OUT groups, there are think tanks and community groups and writers from every part of our multi-ethnic society that want to vote OUT. I think we should listen to that debate and hear their reasoning, not try to close it down with social media posts implying an OUT vote is automatically a vote for extremism and Right Wing government.
So from today I am going to engage with the campaign again, I look forward to a spirited debate, with real issues discussed, and I hope fewer pictures with a few words photo-shopped on the front implying that people considering an OUT vote are racist, homophobic, murderous, ignorant psychopaths intent on self-harm.
See you all next Friday!