The only sign of referendum campaigning in Marlborough that ended up in the George Lane car park was the Conservatives’ ‘IN’ battle bus – making a whistlestop stay. Elsewhere in the constituency there were meetings in Devizes’ Town Hall and at St Peter’s Church, Marlborough and campaigning in the High Street.
The very blue official Conservative ‘IN’ bus was in Wiltshire on Friday (May 27) touring from Salisbury to Marlborough and then on to Chippenham.
Claire Perry MP joined for the Marlborough stop – a quick ‘photo call in the George Lane car park with the battle bus, a banner and lots of T-shirts, then she and the team headed to the High Street to put up a stall and talk to voters and hand out leaflets.
This was a whistlestop tour familiar to American voters of yore when candidates like Harry Truman made speeches from the viewing car of a train and then moved on. In America whistlestops were small towns without a rail station – quite appropriate then for Marlborough.
Marlborough area Conservatives, it should be noted, had their big referendum debate at the end of April.
On Friday evening, the Devizes Green Party hosted a well attended Referendum question and answer session at St Peter’s Church. Former Green Parliamentary candidate Emma Dawnay introduced two of the South West’s Members of the European Parliament – Dr Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the Green Party, and Dr Julia Reid, MEP for UKIP. The evening was chaired by Marlborough team rector, Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy.
About 120 people turned out to take part. After brief statements from each MEP, the questions came thick and fast and brought up a wide range of issues. We learnt that since she was fourteen, Dr Reid has been against Britain being part any European community or union. Dr Scott Cato, an experienced economist, thought that as part of the EU, we would be best to fight globalisation and its growing ‘corporate power’.
The main problem with the evening was that questions were not often addressed let alone answered. Complaints about this from the floor and the chair – especially after some of Dr Reid’s replies – kept on coming.
The most interesting disagreement came over MEPs’ powers to initiate and mould legislation. Dr Scott Cato agreed that MEPs should be able to initiate laws, but she insisted that by building alliances the Greens had been able to make vital contributions to legislation. She cited recent laws on tax evasion and car emissions.
Whereas, she said, UKIP members, because they were against the EU itself, “were not very effective” on legislation that could benefit Europe and Britain. Twenty-four of the UK’s 78 MEPs are UKIP – lessening, she thought, Britain’s clout in the Parliament.
Dr Scott Cato was critical too of the Conservatives who had left one of the main party blocs: “We don’t get the best out of the EU because we don’t play our full part.”
Inevitably migration was raised. Dr Reid had a theory that the people-traffickers bringing refugees to Europe were ISIS members trying to destroy Europe by flooding it with migrants.
Dr Scott Cato called the UKIP arguments “an attempt to confuse”: “It is totally wrong to blame the migration crisis on the EU.”
She said Europe can control its external borders. She then cited the case of Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right-wing National Front, who wanted to come and help the Leave campaign. Labour Brexit leader Kate Hoey asked her to be banned from entry: “So we can control our borders!”
As on the national stage, economic arguments were to the forefront. Dr Reid accepted there might be a short-term downturn when we left the EU but it would worth it: “Can’t we put up with five years of a little more austerity?” And she argued that an increase in interest rates would be a good thing.
Dr Scott Cato had some comfort for the Green Party members in the audience who feared the British government’s attitude towards green energy, fracking and fossil fuels: “The only reason renewable energy is not taking a greater hit than it is, is because of the EU framework…What is holding us back is our own fossilised government.” That gave them some to cheer.
In Devizes on Thursday evening (May 26), the constituency Labour Party hosted a meeting under the title: ‘EU Referendum: have you decided yet?”
Chris Watts who was Labour’s candidate at the 2015 General Election and Mark Dempsey, a member of the National Policy Forum representing the South West and specialising on transport, answered questions from an audience of sixty voters in the town hall. The meeting was chaired by John Saunders from the Devizes Partnership of Churches.
And in Marlborough High Street on Saturday (May 28) Labour and Green Party campaigners joined together again to canvass peoples’ views and hand out leaflets. There was quite a lot of interest from the Saturday shopping crowd.
With four weeks to go and much of the national heat probably already spent, will the debate last the distance?
MAKE SURE YOU CAN VOTE ON 23 JUNE:
Do not forget that to vote in the referendum you have to register by June 7.
The deadline for postal vote applications is June 8. Proxy votes have to be registered by June 15.
Registering to vote only takes a few minutes and all people need in order to complete the process is their date of birth and National Insurance number.
If you are now old enough to vote you can check out the video made by some members of the Wiltshire Assembly of Youth.