Remain’s long term problems

Remain’s long term problems

Even if Remain wins in June, there may be future In/Out referendums and that should give Leave hope and worry Remain.

One of the most interesting aspects of this referendum campaign is David Cameron ignoring Harold Wilson’s precedent of sitting out an In/Out EC/EU referendum. The reason for the breaking this precedent might be that Remain doesn’t have anyone of the stature or relative popularity of David Cameron to front them. It is a less than a year since Cameron’s party received more votes than any other party in a general election this century, for which much of that is down to Cameron.

It maybe purely out of necessity that Cameron is having to lead the Remain campaign*, he knows if he loses, he ceases to be Prime Minister, despite his desire to continue it might not be up to him. If he tries to continue as Prime Minister after losing the referendum, I would hate to be Graham Brady’s postman, they would undoubtedly get a hernia delivering the post to Graham Brady in the days after the 23rd of June.

If Cameron had declared himself hors de combat for this campaign, you can imagine Remain struggling, there would have been no Obama/Cameron press conference on Friday that has so convinced the betting markets to swing behind Remain. Speaking from experience, it is a great advantage when you’re campaigning to have David Cameron as the figurehead for your campaign. I suspect some of the more passionate Tory Leavers’ frustration and anger is in part based on the regret David Cameron isn’t fronting the Leave side, deep down they know he would be using similar strategy and tactics for Leave.

Such strategy and tactics might well have been similarly effective for Leave, David Cameron is ruthless when it comes to winning elections and plebiscites. Leavers in the Tory Party are beginning to have some sympathy with Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, and The Scottish Independence movement, as Cameron is using the same tactics in the EU referendum that were used in the AV and Scottish Independence referenda, as well as the 2015 general election.

Another issue for Remain is that Tory leaders during the last fifty years are generally more Eurosceptic than their predecessor. There’s an inarguable case to be made that Cameron is the most Eurosceptic Leader in office the Tories have ever had. He’s giving the country an IN/OUT referendum, in contrast one of his predecessors, Margaret Thatcher, signed The Single European Act. Even after her fiercely Eurosceptic speech in Bruges she took The UK into The Exchange Rate Mechanism, these two actions  have done more to integrate The UK into the European project than anything Cameron has ever done in office.

It is very likely  the next Tory leader is someone who is currently campaigning for Brexit. Within a few years of the 1975 referendum, Labour had elected as leader someone who made Labour fight the 1983 general election on a manifesto that would withdraw the UK from the European Community. Just like Scottish Independence, the will of the people might be superseded by a further election.

Even the most ardent Pro-EU supporter can see the European Union evolving in the short term not necessarily to the UK’s advantage, particularly the Eurozone and the countries therein. That may lead to another referendum in the near future, and it does appear that some Remainers are presenting Remain as the least worst option, which is not a tenable long term position. The closest comparison I can come up with is the 1992 general election, whilst dealing with a recession and its aftermath, the Tories effectively presented themselves as the least worst option, it worked in the short term, but helped contribute to their shellacking in 1997.

Just look at the picture in the tweet at the top of this piece,  whilst it might not be those two, it is plausible that a future UK In/Out referendum might take place with people similar to those two in power, lacking the relationship Cameron and Obama have, and that also might not be to Remain’s advantage. I can’t imagine Corbyn and Trump sharing a political strategist in the way Obama and Cameron used the talents of Jim Messina.

A future Tory leader might break the precedent of Thatcher and Cameron and campaign for Leave, after all it might be in their interests to campaign for Leave. Nor should Remainers assume a future Leave campaign will be as poor as this current one has been. 

Much like the IRA, Leave only have to be lucky once. Remain will have to be lucky always, Remain appear to have all the luck this time, but in a future referendum, they may not.


*Of course other plausible reasons are that Cameron genuinely believes his position and is campaigning as such or he wishes not to be labelled frit.

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