It’s only four days into the EU referendum campaign and many are already confused. Senior ministers in the government are making directly contradictory claims about the impact of withdrawing from the EU. David Cameron tells us our national security will be put at risk if we leave. Yet Iain Duncan Smith tells us our national security will be improved by leaving. They can’t both be right. We are told on the one hand that the brake on in-work benefits will help address the migrant issue, then on the other hand told it will have no impact whatsoever.
Jeremy Corbyn tells us that the EU has failed to protect workers interests, has failed to stop the erosion of jobs in vital industries and is enforcing the privatisation of public sector services, so most people might expect him to want to withdraw from this failing institution – failing in his eyes at least. But no, he wants to stay.
If well-informed politicians can make directly contradictory claims on exactly the same issue, what on earth is the electorate meant to make of it all? We’ve got four months of this to put up with; by the time 23 June arrives the electorate will probably be so heartily sick of the whole thing, and so utterly confused about the pros and cons of withdrawal or staying in, that voter turn-out could be worryingly low. It’s worth bearing in mind that before 23 June we also have local elections, Scottish and Welsh devolved elections, and a new London Mayor to choose too. For those of us in the Westminster village this might be all terribly exciting. For those out there in the real world we suspect the next four months are going to be arduous to say the least. Yet, a low turnout for one of the most important votes in our lifetimes would be a disaster.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining. At least we’ve got Boris Johnson to keep us royally entertained. He’s said he won’t be actively campaigning for the “out” campaign. But of course he will. He won’t be able to stop himself. Citi have predicted that Boris brings with him a 10%-15% voter swing, so his decision is a coup for the Brexiteers. Either way, we’ll need Boris out there to add some colour to what could otherwise be an increasingly tedious four months.