In the end, Cameron got the deal he was after. You can say it’s a good deal for Britain, you can say it’s a bad deal…..you can say that a renegotiated position within the EU is a great place for Britain to be, at least for the moment, or you can say that we’re just stopping the EU from doing what it needs to do with a bunch of Anglo-Saxon demands. Whatever – Cameron got his deal. It’s on, and in the timing he wanted, a timing that is almost certainly the best shot we have of staying in. Barring some weird disaster, the referendum will now be held on June 23rd.
The bad? Gove has made his decision and gone with the Leavers. In retrospect, this isn’t that surprising. Part of the move on Gove’s part is – like everything to do with this EU referendum – a mechanism of internal Tory politics. Whether the Dan Hodges theory about Gove doing this to provide cover for Osborne’s leadership bid is correct or Gove really wants to be leader himself, there’s been some measure of strategy involving who the next prime minister will be in all of this. But having Gove onside does give the Leave camp some much needed gravitas. We can debate about Michael’s popularity among this set or that one, but the truth is he does have a measure of intellectual integrity and seniority that none of the other current Leave figures possess.
However, the one downside from a Leave point of view to Gove joining the Brexit ranks is that it makes the split between Vote Leave and Grassroots Out even starker. Who will get designation now that Gove will definitely join Cummings and crew in Vote Leave while Grassroots Out has the advantage of being much more cross party?
Which brings me neatly and finally to the ugly: last night’s Grassroots rally, which turned into a boon for political satirists. There are very few absolutely iron clad rules in British politics, but this one you can take to the bank: if Nigel Farage, Chris Grayling and George Galloway all agree on something, anything, it is almost certainly a really, really terrible idea. To be fair to them, the way the timing of the deal announcement had happened really did let the air out of their tyres, which wasn’t really their fault. Still, they should have known that announcing George Galloway as the mystery special guest was bound to backfire in a room full of Kippers and right-wing Tories, and that perhaps having the ushers try and bar people from leaving in protest wasn’t the hottest idea in the world.