Yesterday, Nadine Dorries, Tory MP and erstwhile game show contestant, took to LBC to say some things about the EU referendum debate. I shouldn’t have to actually say this but just to confirm, Dorries is a Brexiteer. But she had this to say about David Cameron, which is interesting:
“If the British public vote to leave the EU, I would imagine and hope the first thing David Cameron would do is stand down as Prime Minister.”
This is in sharp contrast to what most of the Tory cabinet members are saying (and what Boris is saying), namely that David Cameron should remain on as prime minister in the event of a Leave vote. The reasons for this are much more than simple careerism or loyalty to Dave – they realise that if the British public think that Cameron resigning is part of the package, that will make a Leave vote much less likely. The whole thing is going to come down to risk factor, and if you have people wondering whether Brexit really will affect their job/mortgage/interest rates and then you put on top of that a whole new prime minister to deal with, then that could be enough to get a lot of floating voters – particularly Tory voters who are undecided on this issue – to vote Remain out of fear.
What someone like Nadine Dorries, who I’m sure is among those Conservative MPs who think Cameron isn’t a real Conservative, fails to understand is that a large reason the Tories won the election in May 2015 was down to fear factor combined with David Cameron. In other words, fear of big change, and the sense that Cameron was the only guy around who was a safe pair of hands. So if Brexit immediately reverses one of the main reasons people voted the way they did a year prior (and contains the other one anyhow), it is unlikely that the threat of Cameron leaving office immediately following the June vote is going to help the Leavers much.
So I hope other spokespeople for Leave start using the “Cameron must resign” line. But I think even Farage will avoid it. In terms of trying to de-risk Leave, asking people to chuck aside the only guy a large group of people want to be prime minister isn’t a great idea.
Well, if that’s the good news for Remain, the bad news is that there’s going to be a debate at the London Palladium involving Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage (together with Alan Johnson and Nigel Lawson).
(Crouches on floor holding head in hands.)
This is why Boris is useful to the Leave side, he’s pretty much the only person on that side swing voters like or trust.