The EU referendum’s last day: the slogans and status quo
Interesting that David Cameron should be boiling his message down to one word, “together,” in the closing hours of campaigning. The earlier, long-running slogans of the Remain camp haven’t taken hold of voters’ imaginations. You find Leave voters dropping “take control” casually and repeatedly into their own speech. I haven’t heard a single Remain supporter talk of “better together” or any other Remain slogan (can you name them?).
“Control” is a clever word to have on your supporters’ lips when the opposition are trying to label you as the “risk” choice. It balances or neutralises the risk. The question is whether the risk was just too much for some people.
Past referendums suggest there’s an element of pull back to the status quo that happens late in the day. The tragic murder of Jo Cox and the shift in mood that followed, the re-examination of the debate that happened in its wake, may have prompted some voters to shift back to the status quo. It could be that they cite that as their reason (didn’t like the company I was keeping politically, that sort of thing). But these same voters or quite a chunk of them might have been pulled back to the status quo anyway as the Remain camp emphasised “risk” in all its closing coverage. One senior Vote Leave figure said this was their analysis and they’d been stalled in the last few days.
But sustained work from Leave moved the dial so far that the late swing back to Remain might not pull it back? They certainly exceeded David Cameron’s fears and expectations. He never thought Leave would scoop up Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. He didn’t think those two would be so brutally undermining of his standing. The Leave camp made the strategic decision some time ago that they couldn’t just go for the Remain campaign but must go for its ultimate figurehead. Leave strategists decided total warfare was called for or, as one of them put it, “jiu-jitsu time.”
Nothing was left to chance in the Prime Minister’s last campaign tour of the country. Every venue was even more rigorously secret than usual to keep Vote Leave protesters off his trail. There was no fish kissing (Boris Johnson tried that) and nothing off message (no reference comparing experts to Nazi propagandists). He wore Dunlop not Hunters wellies for a visit to a farm in Oxfordshire. His new BF Harriet Harman accompanied him on a string of photo-calls this afternoon. After a visit to a building site near Swindon he hurried her onto a bus in high-visibility jackets and hard hats saying “this is part of the Village People routine.”
It has now ended with a rally at Birmingham University. I spied him applauding Gordon Brown as he suggested a post-Brexit Iain Duncan Smith regime would tear up worker protections. That itself a reminder that David Cameron could, even if he wins, find himself having to negotiate a second Coalition deal, this time with his own party.