Referendum debate has become a 'Punch and Judy Show' warns Peterborough business leader

A senior business leader in Peterborough has warned that the European referendum has descended into a Punch and Judy Show.

Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 6:00 am
John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce. ENGEMN00120120512154811

Chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, John Bridge, says a lack of detail is disillusioning voters and stifling business investment.

He says vital facts and figures are missing from the debate about whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave.

He fears this has left many people with no real idea about the choices they will face when the referendum takes place on June 23.

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Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson. EMN-150421-224226009

He said: “Right now many feel that they simply don’t know what they’re voting for.

“They are becoming disillusioned by the increasingly futile Punch and Judy show being played out by politicians in the media.”

Now Mr Bridge has called on politicians to start creating the informed debate that he says the public and business urgently needs.

But his comments have brought a sharp rebuke from Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson who says that campaigners talking to residents on the doorsteps are finding many people engaged with the issues.

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson. EMN-150421-224226009

Figures released by the chamber show if business leaders were to vote in a EU referendum held tomorrow, 63 per cent would vote to remain, 27 per cent to leave and 10 per cent are undecided.

Mr Bridge said: “The message from our members is that the lack of information and informed debate is preventing voters from shaping their own views.

“Successful businesses operate on facts, figures and forecasts, and to date all of these seem to be noticeably absent from both campaigns.

He said: “There is little doubt that the debate is already starting to have a stifling effect on certain sectors of the economy, as anecdotally we are increasingly hearing of investment plans being put on hold until the future becomes clearer.

“This will inevitably have an adverse effect on business growth and what politicians must now do is raise the bar and create the informed debate the public needs to make its decision on June 23.”

But Mr Jackson said: “Who elected John Bridge to anything?

“He speaks only for himself and doesn’t in any sense represent the local businesses in Peterborough with whom I talk.

“It’s rather patronising to assume that he is following the referendum debate and businesses and members of the public aren’t.

“On the doorsteps many people are engaged at the key issues which will decide the vote on 23rd June.”