When Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, legendary film critic and Hollywood insider, Pauline Kael, is reported to have said that he could not have won because she did not know anybody who had voted for him. The cynical politician, it turns out, had more in common with ‘The Silent Majority’ than the California liberal.
David Cameron benefited from a similar phenomenon at the last General Election. The so-called ‘Shy Tory’—one who is reluctant to express their voting preference to pollsters, but who ultimately plumbs for the Conservative Party—saw the Prime Minister return to Downing Street with an overall majority.
Brexiteers risk being as blinkered as Pauline Kael and will face similar disappointment if they pay too much attention to the self-interested noises eminating from the ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ camp, with prominent spokesmen pointing to reports that say the “strong start” made by the “Out” (they mean “leave”) campaign is causing “panic” throughout Whitehall and the Tory Party.
The latest EU referendum poll actually has opinion shifting away from support for the “leave” proposition since ‘Vote Leave, Take Control’ and ‘Leave.EU’ stepped up their campaigns. This should concern the people running those campaigns, along with all those who wish for Britain to leave the EU and forge a new relationship with our European neighbours based on international trade and intergovernmental co-operation. The inaccurate claims of the established “leave” campaigns will be torn to shreds by the opposition when the referendum battle is truly joined. We need to communicate an offer that is clear, consistent and error-free.
Fortunately, a “leave” proposition that is both principled and pragmatic is beginning to emerge. There is no status quo. Come the referendum, the British people will be faced with a choice between contrasting visions for Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The “remain” camp will propose that people accept David Cameron’s offer to become second-class EU members in a “two-tier Europe”, outside of the integrating euro area, without even the “influence” that europhiles claim Britain currently enjoys. The “leave” campaign will propose that Britain embrace full self-representation on the global bodies where trading regulations are now agreed, with an independent voice and a veto for Parliament which ensures that the politicians have to account to their electors. The outcome will be for the voters to decide.