There is a well-known and playful joke about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’. This is very much how I feel about the EU Referendum.

Undoubtedly some sense exists in re-visiting the national poll of 1975 which endorsed UK’s continued membership of the European Economic Community. The continent has changed dramatically since the days of a trading arrangement known as the Common Market, with the influence of Brussels extending into many other policy areas.

But where the question before the voting public, while simple and binary, is informed by so few facts (three if you believe former Leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard) and so much guesswork, then I would prefer that our paid representatives shoulder the responsibility for managing this uncertainty.

In private, many of the politicians campaigning on behalf of Remain or Leave would probably agree. Very few insiders anticipated that the Prime Minister’s in/out referendum pledge to Tory MPs facing the UKIP surge would lead anywhere. Another Coalition was the predicted outcome from last year’s General Election with the plan for an EU ballot expected to fall as an early casualty in pre-alliance negotiations. But then the Government won an outright majority and David Cameron knew that he had to embrace the referendum thereby confronting the possibility of significant unintended consequences.

We are where we are, June 23rd is almost upon us and the result appears to be too close to call.

From my specialist viewpoint, this has been a fascinating time for some important relationships. For an update on the UK’s association with its European neighbours, we’ll have to reconvene on Friday. In truth, this is a more complex tale than one referendum will tell.

The relationships between the nation’s parliamentarians have certainly caught the eye. Old friends have fallen out. Consider Messrs Cameron and Gove. On the other hand, sworn enemies have fallen in, creating what the BBC described as “strange liaisons”. We have witnessed George Osborne and Alistair Darling sharing a photo opportunity in Ashford, Tony Blair and John Major delivering a joint speech in Northern Ireland.

What about our own personal relationships? How many of those are requiring careful stewardship until this week is over? I know people who are prefacing any social interaction with the condition that ‘we won’t talk about that’. Imagine the dinner party, coffee morning, ‘pop round for a few beers/Prosecco’ circuits grinding to a halt across the country for fear that the R- word will be mentioned, that rivalling speculation and prejudices will run riot, that things will be said that can cannot be unsaid. Has there been a political question that has created so much bad blood?

Surely, though, the relationship which has taken the biggest hit is that between our politicians and the general public. Already in intensive care, this must now be about to receive the last rites.

With trust in MPs already trailing behind estate agents, journalists and bankers, the behaviour of most politicians in the run up to tomorrow’s plebiscite has made this depressing situation much worse. It is an inescapable conclusion that the combination of a national stage, limited factual constraint, a Prime Minister expressing his intention to step down and a weak Leader of the Opposition has proved irresistible to the short-term, superficial, self-interested instincts which are suspected to be politicians’ principal drivers.

Frankly this is a sad state of affairs not least because, as the tributes to the much-loved, much-respected Jo Cox demonstrate, there clearly are MPs who take on what is a difficult and relatively underpaid job in order to make the world a better place rather than (or at least as well as) for personal advancement.

The challenge for politicians is clear. Most of the major problems facing this country are long-term and cross-party – for example, energy security, climate change, infrastructure, housing, migration. If our political leaders and foot soldiers wish to regain our trust, let them emerge from this unedifying campaign more humble, open-minded, enlightened, collaborative and statesmanlike.  They possess the drive and the talent. We need to see, hear and feel them in our world, shaping a future which unites us, to which we can aspire, in which we wish to participate.

Otherwise, it’s not only our EU membership which might exit for a lifetime, but also our trust in politicians.

See you on the other side!