Here in the UK we have just over a week left to make our minds up about how to vote in the European Union Referendum.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting and being interviewed by John Humphrys, a formidable news broadcaster on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, as part of that corporation’s Referendum coverage. Our fifteen minute conversation was distilled down into all of thirteen seconds of featured comment when the episode was aired three days later.
In the period between the interview and its broadcast I felt increasingly doubtful that I’d said anything even vaguely worthwhile or interesting. My fears were corroborated when I received a preemptive apologetic email from the show’s producer, in which he explained:
“As you can imagine, we record a lot and don’t use very much of each guest. It’s the nature of the job I’m afraid.”
Ah well. Maybe my career in radio isn’t quite at burgeoning point.
Nevertheless I did get curious about why I felt so uncomfortable about the whole experience. At first I’d felt euphoric – as perhaps you can tell in the pic! – but then as time passed I began to feel rather like you do after an exam, second-guessing and riddled with doubt.
Regardless of which bit of my lofty opinion was rescued from the cutting room floor I came to the conclusion that the reason I was so nervous after the interview was because I hadn’t done justice to the opportunity. I was kicking myself.
Even worse, I couldn’t form a view on Europe because I hadn’t done my homework or made the required attempt to fully understand the issues. My bad.
Then, purely coincidentally, I came across this book:
I spent the next two days devouring its content, and I am grateful for the chance to become better informed. David Charter has a sequel to this published in March 2016, entitled Europe In or Out, which provides further analysis about what might happen across different areas of our experience depending on the decision cast.
It turns out that in spite of spending most of my life with an awareness of Europe, even having lived and worked in France and Spain and acquired a Modern Languages degree, like many UK voters I did not really have an understanding of all that Europe means.
Now I do.
This is the most politically important vote for UK citizens in years. It has spawned more discussion and engagement among ordinary folk than any general election, and yet the information that is being presented by both sides of the campaign is at best uninspiring, at worst deceitful.
But it’s too big a decision to leave to apathy and chance. We need to do justice to this opportunity. We all need to exercise our democratic right and cast not just any old vote, but an informed one.
Don’t be kicking yourself on 24 June.