In or Out, Richard John shakes it all about again
19 February, 2016, and Mr Cameron announces success in Europe, and a date for the In/Out referendum. And we are promised a rationale, polite, professional debate.
Two days later, and Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions declares that “Staying in the EU will make the UK more vulnerable to Paris-style terrorist attacks”.
For those of you not au fait with politics, a bit of background about IDS, as he’s known (not to be confused with IBS, which a less embarrassing condition), he is a career failure as a politician, briefly leading the Tories before being kicked out.
Yet this is the kind of debate we can expect for the next 10 weeks, until, hopefully, rational thought steps in. Now, this isn’t a political rant; the In/Out vote sees divisions across party lines, between sane and insane.
The danger – as the popularity of Reality TV proves – is that stupidity has never been so popular, and absurd comments from IDS don’t help. And we should all be afraid, for several reasons.
Firstly, across business in general, you’ll hardly find anyone voting to leave. Secondly, in our business, of meetings and events, business is about extending a welcome, not building more barriers. Britain’s conference industry already has enough challenges in winning business from abroad, including appalling language skills, high prices, and a (not always justified) reputation for being unfriendly. The last thing we want is official policy that sanctions those things.
And, like many other sectors, live events are hungry for bright young (and not so young) things from all over the world to come to the UK. That’s to pay exorbitant fees for our university event courses, to master language skills from working in hotels and venue, and to work twice as hard as the indigenous population for the same wage. Like the NHS, our meetings sector would collapse with the kind of immigration constraints being suggested by the ‘Out’ lobby.
Now, normally I wouldn’t waste valuable column inches on an issue that shouldn’t need debate, but the ongoing success of Donald Trump’s campaign has me worried that the Stupidity Virus has mutated beyond recognition, and we should all be doing our best to help inoculate with the truth.