The EU & I: A day on the streets

So after having written about trade and almost completing an article on immigration, I decided that today was the day. I was finally going to take to the streets and do some campaigning. So what did I learn about the campaign and people’s attitudes?

Before I begin, I would like to thank Stronger In for having me and the many people of Exeter who talked today. I wasn’t confident about coming out and campaigning, but it turned into a memorable experience. Different people campaign in different ways. I met many people who have campaigned and some really try to talk loads and not listen, some try to scaremonger. For me authenticity is important, therefore I was honest, was prepared to discuss some of the problems people had and admit to weaknesses in the StrongerIn campaign and the politicians campaigning. However, I would also talk plentifully about why we should remain and use evidence to prove it. To be open and honest makes you virtuous and trustworthy.

I expected the campaigners to mostly be 20 year old, shouting, NUS loving, “liberals” who would bite your head off if you didn’t have the same opinion. But thankfully it wasn’t! There were young and old, males and females and families wanting to proactively help a cause they strongly believed in. There were many people from many different parties. I met fellow Stronger In campaigners from Labour, Lib Dems, Conservative and even UKIP. (Of course I’m kidding about the last one).

The public were interesting to watch. Many would ignore me, tell me they’re not interested or say “I already voted”. Personally, I felt slightly more hurt by those who refuse to acknowledge my existence. A quick piece on etiquette, If you walk past a campaigner of any cause, just acknowledge their effort by saying no thank you.

There were certainly some very interesting characters in Exeter.

We were instructed to approach people with the question “Do you know which way you’re going to vote”. Then to follow a secret flow chart which I very quickly forgot. Many people were happy to say I’m voting in. They were proud and I would say “That’s good, have a nice day.” What I found interesting was the amount of people who would walk past and say “I’m definitely voting out”. There was pride, real pride and a smug gloat when they said it. Maybe it was because they were proud to say what they believed. Maybe because they felt they were a minority who were metaphorically sticking two fingers up at society, at the government and at me (Not JUST because I’m a total douche bag, but because I was part of Stronger In). Anyway, I would also wish them a nice day and they would walk past and that would be that.

Apart from one person…

A twenty something “typical lad” who’s name I didn’t learn walked by me and shouted “You’re finished!” Not in a threatening manner, at me, but about the EU. I debated with him, and he loved trying to dominate a conversation with me. A more experienced StrongerIn campaigner tried to get involved, but he wasn’t interested in talking to her (an elderly female). After this I talked to another Stronger In campaigner (A Lib Dem mother of at least two) and she said something very interesting: “These guys who want to shout and have bigger arguments only ever seem to target male campaigners.”

Thank you for telling me this now…

Interestingly most males who were stopping by were talking to me, while most females were talking to the Lib Dem mother. What was some innocent street campaigning had suddenly become a testosterone fuelled battlefield with males trying to show dominance over me by arguing passionately for their side. Anyway, enough of that. I will move on to my next point before sounding like I’m David Attenborough.

The people who stopped to talk with me for ages were already so strongly voting leave. Very few neutrals wanted to stop and talk. Within my first 30 minutes of campaigning, a relatively elderly gentleman, very concerned about us becoming a muslim country, came and talked to me for the best part of 20 minutes. So long in fact that the head of the stall sent someone to see if I was ok and give me a chance to get away. But by that point the conversation was almost over. I talked to a man and his teenage son who were respectable, and despite favouring leave I hope I made them think twice. I also talked to a Conservative business man who is appalled by Cameron and Gove.

But here’s what really stood out by the end of my shift. The people talking to me, their main concern was not immigration. The main thing I was writing about last night and prepared to discuss was not high on their agenda. It was more national pride and sovereignty. These concerns say to me that both sides have been campaigning wrongly. Leave shouldn’t focus on borders and immigration but power, while remain need to do more to help their side in the sovereignty argument.

There is also too much negativity in campaigning. People hate it. Many people told me they hated the way StrongerIn were doing things. Lots talked about “World War 3” and someone even said sarcastically “If I vote to leave, my balls will shrink to the size of peas”. What a lovely quote that was. When I campaigned I tried to be positive and admitted that the campaign had been negative.

It was pretty clear the trends and demographics of each side as the day went on. I could tell who would say what side they were as they walked past. There are many concerns about Europe which I hope to answer over the next few weeks, but I hope those who are voting leave are doing so for their benefit as opposed to doing so to be rebellious. The rebellious feeling was something that was very predominant today.

Today was a very informative experience and one  I would reccomend (Despite the passionate people). It is very safe and was fantastic to discuss arguments and opinions with those who both agreed and disagreed with me. Most people I talked to were both passionate, respectful and intellegent. Not a job for the faint hearted, but an educative experience nonetheless.


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