Helen Martin: Believe it or not, this EU campaign is thrilling

ISN'T the build-up to the EU referendum thrilling? You probably think I'm dripping sarcasm. Himself thinks I've gone bonkers as I fiercely concentrate on any stay or leave debate, panel show or news item, while he yawns his way through every piece of Leave or Remain propaganda and groans at endless coverage.

Monday, 6th June 2016, 10:42 am
Updated Monday, 6th June 2016, 11:47 am
Thrillsville ... Chairman of the Vote Leave business council John Longworth, Michael Gove MP and Boris Johnson MP address workers during a Vote Leave campaign visit to DCS Manufacturing Group. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Not a single major party in our bumbling, tired-out system is speaking with one voice when it comes to Brexit or not. They are all divided, even the SNP, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence that a vote to break away from Europe is likely to trigger calls for another Scottish referendum.

There are so many strands to the debate that the entire UK Women’s Institute working together couldn’t knit enough of them together to produce an egg cosy.

For some it’s all about money and economy, immediate or long term, what we are obliged to pay to the EU and what we get back in return. For others it’s about the principle of sovereignty and the ability to decide on everything from employee rights to government support for what’s left of the steel industry. For many, it’s about control over immigration and border security. Despite financial, trade and business organisations and advisory bodies firing out their messages, opinion in every sector is divided, with dissention in the ranks.

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Britain with its welfare system and minimum “living wage” (even though it isn’t enough to live on) is a major complication given the EU’s fundamental and non-negotiable rule of free movement. The European Union is, after all, a union of disparate countries some of whom have absolutely nothing in common except continental geography, the definition of which is becoming looser by the day. And the EU’s ambition of closer integration is either terrifying or admirable depending on your point of view.

So far, like most of us swithering from day to day, I haven’t made up my mind.

But refreshingly for once, we are not bound by political parties, their manifesto promises, and that mindless section of our population who vote on party loyalty alone rather than thinking for themselves.

And the polls will be more useless than ever because so many won’t decide how to vote until they are in the booth clutching that wee pencil.

What it comes down to is individual personality. Some people don’t like change and operate on the basis of “better the devil you know” no matter how bad things are or how much better they could be. Others have more of an appetite for adventure and risk, enjoy shaking things up, and are prepared to win or lose as a result.

June 24 will be like Christmas Day, unwrapping our Secret Santa lucky dip parcel. Will it be the same old pair of socks or a ticket to a Magical Mystery Tour? It’s not just about the same old political parties – and that’s what makes it exciting.

Let’s play our Trump card by ignoring him

DONALD Trump plans to arrive in the UK on June 24 to open his Trump Turnberry golf course.

As a journalist, I know this won’t happen but wouldn’t it be wonderful if he got no coverage, no political meetings, no approaches by journalists, and not even a passing glance from locals?

More than half a million people in the UK wanted him barred from entering the country. The man needs publicity and attention like the rest of us need oxygen.

It would be far better (and disturbing to him) to ignore him altogether.

Little dogs aren’t always harmless

PART of the reason for my column’s absence recently was the sudden and unexpected death of my greyhound. I admit I love these dogs.

But in the last few weeks I have heard three cases of small dogs off lead attacking and wounding greyhounds who were on the lead. In each case the wee dogs’ owners defended themselves by saying greyhounds were aggressive and should be muzzled – even though their dogs had done the biting.

A vicious greyhound is unusual and will always be muzzled by its owner. Most are placid, muzzled only on race tracks or as a precaution because they are a new pet (as any dog should be at first), and on a lead because they have no road sense and can run like the wind – their usual method of escape from attack. Their renowned gentleness makes them one of the top recommended breeds for visiting homes for the elderly.

Too many people let little dogs run off lead and out of control, seem to think their small size makes them harmless rather than dangerous, and clearly have never heard of “small dog syndrome”.

We must heed danger signs

ANOTHER walker died falling from Arthur’s Seat last week. I loathe over-zealous health and safety, but this is a tourist city. Isn’t it time we installed more warnings and safety barriers to protect the naive who think it is literally “a walk in the park”?