Today, George Osborne, Ed Balls and Vince Cable shared a platform to argue against Britain leaving the EU. It was all three flavours of mainstream political thinking in the this country telling us that Brexit would be a terrible thing. In other words, it’s every mainstream party v UKIP on this one. And UKIP got 13% of the vote at the last general election.
Meanwhile, Boris is doing his bit to ensure the idea of Brexit being linked with extremist ideology is a done deal. A friend of mine offered to bet me several months ago that at some point in the campaign, a major figure for Leave was going to compare Hitler and the EU. I didn’t take him up on it, and now I’m obviously glad. My underestimation of humanity paid off for once.
The voice of Brexit becomes ever more shrill and desperate as we approach polling day. All of the stars are aligning for a large Stay In vote. Usually when the entire political establishment, Right and Left, unite around a particular theme, about two thirds of the British public vote for it. This is standard, accepted wisdom.
However, standard, accepted wisdom has been wrong more than a few times of late. The last general election is only the most obvious case in point. Remember when we were told that an asteroid striking the Earth in the next few days was more statistically likely than the Tories gaining a parliamentary majority? Assumptions had hardened into presumed fact and made everyone’s predictions go way off. Are we doing the same thing with the EU referendum?
Britain is, at heart, a Eurosceptic country. Will all of the economic arguments fall on deaf ears when the chance to spring from the supposed prison of Brussels is offered, perhaps for the only time ever? Again, history and political assumptions tell us no, but those assumptions are still in flux. We live in weird times. Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party last summer. Leicester City won the Premier League (okay I know that last one had nothing whatsoever to do with politics, but still, it is pretty out there). Perhaps the Mondeo Man will just ignore all of the arguments about house princes falling, the pound collapsing and Hitler doing whatever the ghost of Hitler is doing this hour in regards to the European Union and vote with his gut, telling him we’re an island nation, goddammit. If the continentals won’t give us advantageous trade deals, let’s just invade them. Like Hitler would.
Anyhow, I guess we’ll see in five and half weeks just how much the old assumptions about the way politics works are still valid.