Generally Speaking

Tomorrow’s EU referendum- the need to listen to the experts

Does the panel agree with Michael Gove that we’ve had enough of experts?

That was the question I submitted in advance for the EU referendum debate in Alton Assembly Rooms this Monday evening. Unfortunately it was left to the very end – in fact five minutes after the very end (timed for the England/Slovenia match) – and the panel were asked to give it a one-word answer.

I had been hoping for more than that.

I had chosen my question, after much thought, specifically to give the two REMAIN speakers the chance to underline the overwhelming weight of expert opinion that is urging us to stay in Europe. The most recent of endless examples being:

  • The day before: Nine out of ten economists in a survey reported in the Observer urging REMAIN
  • That morning: A letter in the Guardian newspaper from Ten Nobel Prize-winning economists urging REMAIN .

I also hoped they would mention the shameless lack of reporting of these facts in the Brexit press.

I then hoped the panellists would point out that the answer Michael Gove gave recently when confronted with this reality – “We’ve had enough of experts” – was a fatuous and deeply irresponsible one – almost unbelievably so from, of all things, a former Minister of Education.

But there was no time for these points to be made on Monday, so I’m making them now, possibly to a wider audience, and possibly to people who have yet to decide how to vote tomorrow.

Therefore, with all my heart, I urge any Brits reading this to think deeply about what this means. From my background as a family doctor, it is second nature to me that, in the complex modern world, we do have to listen to experts. We simply cannot base decisions, whether they are in medicine or of the historical importance of tomorrow’s referendum, on the kind of gut feelings that Michael Gove was trying to evoke. (And please don’t take my word for it about what the experts are saying – it is perfectly obvious that Michael Gove wouldn’t have said what he said if they were urging us to leave.)

Many people I meet say they are confused by the conflicting statements about the referendum and don’t know what to think. Some say this referendum should never have been called – that it is too technical and too complex for ordinary people. But it has been called and it is time for us to show that we can make a responsible choice. That choice – in my case to REMAIN – is not just because I am passionately involved in the European ideal, or because I reject hatred and xenophobia and insularity and biased press coverage – above all it is because I have not ‘had enough of experts’. I respect the opinion of experts and I know full well that we reject their advice at our absolute peril.

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