By the time next time I write my letter for this column, the British public will have made the biggest decision they are likely to make for several generations. The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has dominated the news both at home and internationally, with hysterical doomsday predictions from both sides and political infighting sadly characterising the campaign. This is regrettable, given the seriousness of the choice that has been put before us.
The problem facing ‘leave’ campaigners is that the question of what it will mean for the wider economy if we exit is an unanswerable one. By definition, we cannot know what the consequences may or may not be until we have seen it happen. For many, many people in the business community, the risk is therefore too great to stomach.
Or so I have had to assume, in the case of hospitality leaders. At Hotel Owner we have avoided the subject editorially because we have found it impossible to persuade any industry figures to set out their stall on the issue. Perhaps this is because the choice has been framed (by the opposing campaigns) as a battle between small-minded bigots and out-of-touch metropolitan elitists. Who wants to keep company with either of those? But I have not encountered this sort of universal reticence over any other issue I’ve reported on in my career as a journalist.
You might argue that it falls to us in the media to nail our colours to the mast in the absence of entertaining quotes from the industry itself, but to my mind, that is the territory of partisan national newspapers, not the trade press. We’re happy to report on others’ views where they offer them, but we are not a political magazine and I decided at the start of the campaign that we could not justifiably use our opinion columns to persuade our readers to vote one way or the other.
We at the magazine are not economists, and as such we are unqualified to come off the fence and openly endorse either position, at least in our professional capacity. That leaves in the editorial arsenal just vague platitudes about wanting to retain economic stability whatever the outcome – not the most entertaining reading, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So whilst I would love to write a punchy leader with a forceful argument, I think I’ll have to wait for the editorship of a political rag to come available, and send my CV there first.