Apparently, there’s a debate going on as to whether Britain should stay in or exit the European Union. I have to say that this is news to me. A debate, from my point of view, would be welcome but, in the main, all I witness is Animal Farm-type slogans being written on the barn wall: “British legs good, European legs bad” or “Whatever goes upon European legs is a friend”. How is this supposed to help our country make such an important decision?
Even more insidious are the gagging orders which are preventing well-considered views from being openly voiced. This is not a debate – it’s more like two opposing crowds of football fans counter-chanting across the field at each other. What’s more, the game is still being played on the pitch between them. The analogy here is becoming stronger as the “campaigns” progress as the antipathy heightens, while the clarity of the arguments become more blurred. At the moment we’re witnessing a playground spat as the children come out of class to play in Parliament Square.
I admit that this may be idealistic naivety on my part but I really long for some objective, considered information on the real issues. The nearest I have got to this was both the “personal view” expressed by John Longworth before stepping down from the BCC, and Mark Carney in his three-hour inquisition by the Select Committee. Even these beacons have been shouted down rather than discussed.
My fear in all of this is that the decision will come down to the accumulation of personal interests and cant rather than a balanced opinion. Surely, we cannot allow a population go to the polls so ill informed? Isn’t it right that a nation should decide its future on the issues and not the personalities? And as UK business has so much to gain, or lose, perhaps we as business people have a responsibility to look behind the rhetoric?
I’m reminded of a story about Jimmy Carter when, after his term as US president, he was asked what he had longed for most during his time in the White House. His reply was that most of the time he had wished for a one-armed economist – that way, when he asked for advice he could not be told, “Well, Mr President, on the one hand this but on the other hand that”. I’m feeling much the same right now.
Garry Smith is an ABP business coach and the co-author of Creating Business Advantage: Setting Up and Running A Successful Business (SRA Books, 2015) ISBN 978-1-909116-43-6