June 02, 2008

We Who Hesitate

Who to believe?

We're in the throes of leading up to our referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the Yes and No lobbies are out in force.

Our Commissioner in Europe for Internal Market & Services, Charlie McCreevy, has a well-earned reputation for straight-talking and he recently suggested that we don't have to read the proposed formula from start to finish to come to a decision. I've made a couple of half-hearted attempts to get to grips with the text so I'm naturally inclined to agree. Anyway, to this layman, it's not simply a question of understanding what's being proposed; there's the whole problem of getting your head around its true implications.

Christine often accuses me of being a fence-sitter. It's true. I'm challenged by being too able to see the merits of both sides of any argument. My head goes back and forth as I watch the serves, strokes and returns (front and backhand) of each of the players, and whilst I sit high on my umpire's chair, I'm reluctant to make a call.

Like many others, I'm sure, I'm inclined to shake my head in frustration and focus on the character and personality of the players instead. For me, here's where the real power of a brand comes into play. Too often, whether it comes to our choice of the shape of Europe (dahdah!), or secondary school for our children or conditioning shampoo, we simply don't have time to read the small print. Hey, sometimes we can't even find time for the bigprint. Instead, we look to the brand to guide our choice.

Here's the difficulty when it comes to the Lisbon Treaty. Neither side has much to recommend it and there's a real danger that this time out, it's going to come down to people's natural inclination to say Yes or No. Whilst I don't believe our vote is so much a question of whether we're for or against Europe (despite the efforts of the politicians to break it down neatly to this simple choice), I believe that just like the options weighed up in the supermarket aisle, it's going to come down to that rather simplistic view.

So how's that going to work? Unlike in other countries, where a contrary point-of-view is almost a birthright, I think that in the absence of a clearly branded choice, the Irish will follow our natural inclination to be agreeable and vote Yes.

There! I'm off the fence. How do you think it will play out?

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