EU referendum question should be changed to avoid confusion, says Electoral Commission

The Commission warns that the proposed question could lead to misunderstanding as some voters do not know whether the UK is already a member.

If politicians are sometimes guilty of underestimating the public's knowledge, they are also often guilty of overestimating it. It is the latter fault that the Electoral Commission has identified in its response to the EU referendum question proposed in Tory MP James Wharton's EU Referendum Bill (which has the support of the Conservative leadership). It warns that the current question - 'Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?' - could create confusion since "a few people did not know whether or not the UK is currently a member of the EU".

It added that the question could be changed to 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?' but that this would leave "some element of perceived bias" (since it guides voters towards a particular answer). As an alternative, it proposed 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?', noting that "research participants found this the most neutral of all the versions tested."

Wharton has responded by saying that his "initial reaction" is that there is "no need" to change the question but that he "will reflect". With so much at stake (assuming that there is eventually a referendum), expect the argument to continue.

David Cameron delivers his speech promising an EU referendum on January 23, 2013 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Show Hide image

Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland