I’ve read a few articles over the past week or so from members of the Right who are desperate to jump on any sign of life from the Leave camp as proof that the country still might vote to leave the European Union on June 23rd. Anytime a poll puts Leave in even the most marginal of leads – even when it just puts Leave only marginally behind – they jump up and scream that the establishment has underestimated Euroscepticism in this country. The strangest thing about these pronouncements is that even if they are true, shouting about them actually does their cause real harm.
Allow me to explain. In a weird sort of a way, I think the thing that might have saved the Union was that one poll that put Yes slightly ahead just before the Scottish independence referendum. Not so much in that it caused the politicians to start promising things should Scotland vote to remain in the UK (although that helped), but in that it allowed Scots to look over into the abyss for real. Are you sure you want this? – they were all suddenly asked. I think it motivated a lot of soft unionists, or even just people who didn’t care previously but were deep down risk averse, to show up on the day. This is all conjecture – obviously we can never know for sure.
In regards to the EU referendum, one of the problems for Remain is fatigue. Meaning, people just assume they are going to win and although they’d rather stay in than leave, feel confident that everyone else will vote to Remain so they don’t need to bother. So if the polls stay close up until a few days out on the other hand, this may act as a motivator for all the soft Remainers to bother to cast a ballot (particularly among the young and the Left).
In short, the Brexiteers are really just helping the Remain team by continuing to talk up their own side’s chances every time a poll bounce comes along. They should instead be playing the Tortoise to Remain’s Hare, hoping they sneak over the line due to the overconfidence of their opponents. Their only chance is via low turnout, which they are well aware of, so why do they keep talking about something that one, isn’t helping that strategy along and two, is probably complete rubbish anyhow? I will remind everyone that the polls regarding the AV referendum campaign were neck in neck twenty days out from polling day. By that standard, the Leavers should wait until at least this time next week before they start getting too psephologically excited anyhow.
The pro-Brexit camp are caught in a spin cycle that is bound to collapse before June 23rd: they huff and puff about the polls, helping them to stay as high as possible for as long as possible, knowing deep down it is a hiding to nowhere but at the same time feeling too emotionally invested in a Leave outcome to care. All this makes me worry about what happens from June 24th onwards – we could be witness to something like what happened in Scotland after the 2014 referendum, only this time instead of faux socialists like Nicola Sturgeon leading the charge it will be right wing Tories and UKIPers. There could be bumpy road ahead.