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Letter: Cranleigh EU Referendum Debate – An Underwhelming Affair.

Published on: 13 May, 2016
Updated on: 13 May, 2016
EU&UK FlagsFrom George Dokimakis
Today (May 13) the first EU referendum organised by our MP, Anne Milton, took place in Cranleigh.
The panel, chaired by Mrs Milton, had Harry Aldridge the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Guildford in 2015 supporting leaving the EU and Cllr Paul Spooner, leader of the Guildford Borough Council, advocating ‘remain’.
The Rt Hon Anne Milton MP

Rt Hon Anne Milton MP

The panel also had Richard Graham chair of the Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce and Nick Bamford of Informed Choice who sponsored the event but they did not speak.

Overall the debate was underwhelming. Both speakers had opening statements and unfortunately for the Remain campaign Cllr Spooner’s statement and performance was disappointing.
Cllr Paul Spooner

Cllr Paul Spooner

It felt like he had just decided to support ‘remain’ and he did not exhibit any passion. Perhaps it is difficult to be passionate about the EU but his arguments were not strong or varied enough. Throughout the event Harry Aldridge was the better speaker.

Both, for some reason focussed mainly on trade, as if this is the only thing hanging on this debate. There was no mention of immigration, security, worker rights, environmental benefits or geopolitics.
Harry Aldridge

Harry Aldridge

Mrs Milton was right to call them out on this and bring some of these topics to the forefront. The whole conversation was dominated by trade which did the debate an injustice; it was a missed opportunity to cover some key areas that could influence people.

The audience was a mixed bag of Europhiles, Europhobes and undecideds. But they were refreshingly animated yet civil. They did seem to be mainly retired folk which probably reflects the group of people available on a Friday afternoon.
I am not certain that the debate would have helped anyone make up their mind. A lot of good statements were made by the public and a lot of misconceptions were voiced, mostly, in my view, from Brexit supporters.
Because both speakers were right-wing, it led to the debate being very one-sided. On multiple occasions Cllr Spooner said: “I agree with Harry” which shows that actually both of them are thinking along similar lines; perchance one fell on the Brexit side and the other on the side of Remain.
This is the biggest decision of our generation and the debate needed a better Remain speaker and would have benefited from a left-wing view too.  If Mrs Milton cannot find a left-wing speaker available to debate for the Remain side I and the Guildford Labour Party would be more than happy to help to ensure our local residents get the debate they deserve.
Mrs Milton did a good job moderating and I would like to thank her for organising all the debates. It is good that the public in Guildford have this chance to participate. The choice of panellists does need improving though and the debate will benefit from a wider representation
I look forward to the next one.
George Dokimakis is the vice-chair of the Guildford Labour Party.

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Responses to Letter: Cranleigh EU Referendum Debate – An Underwhelming Affair.

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I was at the debate and to some extent agree with the above comments.

    However I cannot accept that misconceptions came from the OUT crowd. Most came from the IN crowd and demonstrated, to me, a rather touching faith that the EU would do the right thing eventually but perhaps not quite yet.

  2. John Armstrong Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I too attended the debate at Cranleigh Art Centre and while I agree that Harry Aldridge was the better speaker and that the debate focussed mainly on the economy and business (hardly surprising as the event was hosted by Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce) I do not agree that a more left wing speaker for remain would have been beneficial.

    I feel that the nation has had quite enough of the Labour party and left wing thinking which is responsible for the national debt now topping £1 trillion. Okay, the Coalition and the Tories haven’t done much to reduce it, in fact the debt continues to spiral out of control but it was irresponsible Labour spending that took it up to such dizzy heights in the first place.

    One thing really staggers me about the Labour Party, and indeed the trade unions; and that is how they can even countenance let alone implement, the importation of cheap labour to do the jobs of their own members and their own voters.

    Could it be, I wonder, that all those loyal Labour voters, now on part time and low pay, are no more than collateral damage on the way to a socialist EU and are therefore expendable.

    Back to the debate. One of the reasons so much of this whole Brexit debate is focussed on the economic arguments is that a great many of us in our hearts want to leave the EU and a great many of us are undecided. However we want to base our decision on logic and pragmatism rather than it just being an affair of the heart.

    I think also that many of us have a slight guilt complex about wanting to leave the EU (we British are so nice) and if we are to make that leap and kick over the traces we will need hard facts to justify our decision so both sides are trying to win the economic argument.

    Another reason that ‘Remain’ stick to the economy is that they cannot win on immigration, security, sovereignty and borders.

    Trouble with the economy, of course, is that it is difficult to predict. For instance, Gordon Brown didn’t see the 2008 crash coming. So all the dire warnings are meaningless. No-one knows what the economy will be like next year let alone in 2030.

    If I were undecided, which I’m not of course, I would go for sovereignty. Once you have that you can sort out everything else.

    John Armstrong is the chairman of Guildford Ukip

  3. Dylan White Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    George Dokimakis seems not to be aware that Labour have already been to Guildford to debate the EU.

    Brendan Chilton from shared the platform with Daniel Hannan MEP last November at the Holiday Inn and told a packed hall why we should be leaving the EU.

    Both these men were so convincing that I switched from ‘In’ to ‘Leave’. The Labour party is as split as the Conservatives on the issue. If you’re undecided, please watch BREXIT: THE MOVIE Here’s a link

  4. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    I am one of those undecided.

    Leaving aside party politics and the who did what to whom and when arguments, many of which are irrelevant right now, I would like to know why David Cameron et al are so adamant on ramming economics down our throats without considering some of the other reasons for staying in or leaving Europe.

    What happens to the environment, travel, emigration, food quality, air quality, fishing, wildlife, airport expansions and so on?

    So far, whilst most of these things are more important that money, no one seems to give any weight to them.

  5. Christian Holliday Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    This week saw the premiere of Brexit: The Movie, which was held at the Odeon in Leicester Square. I was fortunate enough to attend, along with around 1,600 other guests. I do recommend undecided voters to watch this crowdfunded documentary:

    Christian Holliday is a Conservative ward councillor for Burpham.

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