In the bad old days at Stamford Bridge, it was not uncommon for Chelsea fans to be accosted with the dread question: “Oi! You ‘Arris or Wilkins?”
To hear it was to experience the hideous certainty that any attempt to explore the relative merits of Ron “Chopper” Harris or Ray “Butch” Wilkins as Captain would be swiftly shredded, and you with it, while the wrong answer might very well be terminal.
The EU referendum is very different, of course. But there is still the same urgent drive on both sides to tribalise, to play divide-and-conquer... with the poor, suffering voters haplessly caught in the middle.
The same is true of MPs. Many of my colleagues have come out enthusiastically for one side or the other, some have been stampeded into doing so by the social media, while a few remain undeclared.
Are these latter hopelessly craven fence-sitting middle-of-the-roaders, incapable of taking a simple red-blooded decision on the central issue of the day? Well, of course, some of them may be. But actually there is a perfectly proper, indeed constitutionally principled, case for non-declaration.
It’s easy to forget that referendums are very different from general elections.
Referendums are not acts of representative government. There are no MPs, no political parties and no Prime Ministers (indirectly) to vote for. Their impact runs, not for five years, but for at least a generation. A bad decision cannot be improved only a few years later by voting the other way.
There are no manifestoes, and just one question to be answered: In or Out? Everyone has their own opinions, and rightly so. There are huge questions of economic growth and national identity at stake.
Far more than in elections, the outcome of a referendum may be starkly different for different people: for the small business owner vs. the corporate executive, for the housewife vs. the pensioner, for the student vs. the civil servant.
Only last month, Reuters reported that as many as 10 million voters were still undecided. Just take farmers: how are they supposed to reach a considered view, when no details have been released of what subsidies they could expect in the event of Brexit?
For referendums especially, then, there is an overwhelming need to have sources of unbiased information and impartial advice, which allow people to make informed choices on their own terms.
That’s how I see my role as an MP. Over the next few weeks I will be meeting constituents, writing articles, giving speeches, holding public meetings, sharing information. There are a vast number of voters out there who are turned off by slogans and name-calling. They need to be helped, and they need to be heard.
[A version of this article first appeared in the The Times on 24 March 2016.]