Roger Mac Ginty

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"Why I’m abstaining from the EU Referendum"

Roger Mac Ginty is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), and the Department of Politics, University of Manchester.

His research has been on peace processes, political violence, and local responses to international peace-support interventions. He has conducted field research in Bosnia-Herzgovina, Croatia, Georgia, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda and the US.[1]


Professor Mac Ginty co-edits the journal Peacebuilding and edits a book series with Palgrave entitled "Rethinking Political Violence". His latest single-authored book is "International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance: Hybrid forms of peace". His edited "Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding" was published 2013, and the four-volume "Sage Major Work on Peacebuilding" in 2014. He is Principal Investigator of a major Economic and Social Research Council (ESCR) project on "Peacekeeping information systems", and is working on the "Everyday Peace Indicators project".[2]

EU Referendum: Abstain

In an article published on 4 March 2016, Professor Mac Ginty explained "Why I’m abstaining from the EU Referendum":

On most days, the main news story in the UK involves a rich middle-aged white man saying that the sky will fall on our heads if we leave OR remain in the European Union. The outcome is always catastrophic. It is never a case of "If you leave/remain in the EU there will be mild consequences."

What is driving me to abstain from this whole referendum campaign is that the staging of this argument suits those in power. It suits them to divert our attention onto the EU issue while they continue with an anti-people agenda of privatising the National Health Service, taking benefits from the poorest in society, de-regulating the City of London, and dismantling universities. Every second of airtime given to this issue is a second that does not scrutinise a government of millionaires presiding over increasing homelessness, less care for the mentally ill, fewer police officers on the streets, and shoddy treatment of doctors.

Conservative Party game

So I am not playing the game. And this is a game. The issue of whether the UK remains in the EU is essentially an internal Conservative Party issue that the Prime Minister has decided to turn into a campaigning issue. It is an issue of choice. It is an unnecessary indulgence for a man who will leave office in three years and resume being what he is: a multi-millionaire elitist. It was entirely his choice to turn this into a major political issue. And to give him and his coterie attention on this issue is to play into his hands. Obviously, the media are playing into his hands. They love this issue. It is a simple binary choice. It pits supposed allies against each other. It touches on weather-vane issues beloved by the right-wing gutter press such as immigration, welfare, and ‘foreigners’.

If I were to vote (and I will not) I would vote to remain in the EU. My confidence in the European project was severely shaken by the patently undemocratic treatment meted out to Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal by the European Commission and the European Central Bank (but really by the German government). This foisting of bankers’ debt on populations was a crime against decency and democracy. This issue aside, the European project has generally been a good thing. The central message – that cooperation between states is better than unilateralism and nationalism – is an important one. After all, nationalism cost tens of millions of European (and other) lives in the twentieth century. The EU has been an important tool in blunting that on continental Europe.

Project Fear

What we are seeing with this EU referendum campaign is essentially theatre. The UK will vote to remain in the EU. If there is any doubt about this, take a look at what happened during the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. The extent to which the people of Scotland were bludgeoned on a daily basis by London-based corporations, media and political parties was something that had to be seen to be believed. The corporations, media and political parties united to form a massive steamroller that bullied and threatened people about the benefits of remaining in the UK.

Cynically, Scotland's remaining in the UK campaign called itself Project Fear – it was predicated on the notion that it would win if it scared people about tax, cost of living, pensions, and security. And it worked. Prime Minister Cameron and his rich white boy allies know this. Project Fear II will prevail and the UK will remain in the EU. And safe in that knowledge, I am going to concentrate on issues that matter – not on a sham referendum campaign.[3]