Both EU referendum campaigns have been suspended since Thursday afternoon and look to be halted until Monday. Given the proximity to polling day, we’re in uncharted waters here.
Given what happened on Thursday, there was no choice. The tone of the campaign had become unbearably hateful, and in light of an MP being murdered in the street, there was simply no way to continue as it was. If Farage had that “Breaking Point” poster, one whose similarity to a particular piece of Nazi propaganda was no doubt unintentional but given it was trying to make the same point as the Nazi piece that’s somewhat immaterial, unveiled a week out, we can only be thankful that we’ll never get to find out what was on the grid for the final stretch. The death of Jo Cox changed all that. Suddenly the hatred seems what it was all along – in incredibly bad taste.
The Leave campaign are now in a very difficult spot. The hardcore immigration stuff, which when it was utilised a few weeks ago, was clearly nothing more than the equivalent of the keeper hoofing it up to the opposite goal in the hope that it would deflect off someone’s knee, worked far better than anyone on that campaign would have ever thought possible. So they pressed that button as hard as they could – which makes sense in pure campaigning terms. We were headed for a strong Remain win when you look back at late-May. The immigration stuff suddenly made a Brexit win not only possible but likely.
After Thursday, Nazi propaganda seems like less of a good technique. But it’s very hard to change tack at this stage. Judging the tone at present is very difficult, and getting it wrong could mean it’s all over. I’m glad it’s not my call to make.