The paradox of the EU referendum campaign is that all of Mr Cameron’s political foes want him to win and many of his political comrades want him to lose and hand over to an isolationist Prime Minister.
So far the campaign has been a civil war in the Conservative Party rather like the legendary Irish pub brawl where the outsider has to wait patiently asking if it’s possible to join in.
Now the Easter holidays are over, Mr Cameron and the non-isolationist Remain camp will have to get serious about identifying and nailing down the votes they need to avert Brexit.
The Prime Minister has already been honest and admitted in the last print edition of the Independent on Sunday that he is worried that a low-turn out may produce more Brexit than Remain votes.
Mr Cameron has reduced his options by limiting the electorate so that 800,000 mainly young people – more likely to vote to keep their right to travel, live and work in Europe which Brexit would remove – have been taken off the electoral register because they are students, doing gap years or transient between different addresses.
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In addition, 2 million British passport holders on the continent, who will be most affected by the loss of European citizenship, cannot vote. They are Her Majesty’s subjects, this is not an election for constituency MPs, and they are proud to be British. But they are denied a vote. A judicial review is being prepared which if judges uphold the right of the true-born ex-pat Brit to vote on his or her future may lead to pushing back the referendum date from June.
But Mr Cameron should also have some regard for the 9,340,000 Labour voters and 6,400,000 members of trade unions who can win or lose the referendum for him. Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the nationalist parties and trade unions are all Mr Cameron’s opponents. Yet their supporters and voters will make the difference to the outcome of the Brexit vote.
Indeed, some of the strongest anti-Brexit voices like the ex EU Commissioners, Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandelson, or the ex TUC leader, John Monks, have spent decades opposing the Conservatives. The one thing they have in common and in contrast to the well-funded Tory and business campaigns for and against Brexit is that they have no money to campaign.
Labour’s Alan Johnson, is a much-liked politician who heads the Labour In campaign. But like many of the Labour anti-Brexit grandees he has been entitled to a Freedom Pass for some time. The Labour, Lib-Dem, Green and SNP Remain campaigns have not yet found a touch that connects to millennials and those younger voters who have lived on a daily diet of Brussels bashing from journalists and politicians in the last two decades.
The Labour Party has allocated half its campaigning resources to defeat Brexit. But with the threat of reducing the size of the Commons by 50 seats which will decrease any hopes of a change of government, Labour may be forgiven for asking itself “Why are we saving the skin of a Prime Minister who seeks to use his parliamentary majority to pass laws to weaken us in a way not seen since the 1920s?”
Many Labour voters who see themselves as losers in the liberal market economics of the EU and challenged by the arrival on the jobs and housing markets of 2 million skilled, hard-working, low-wage East Europeans have transferred to UKIP and may not come back before 23 June.
But there are pro-EU arguments for other Labour voters and trade union members that can be deployed. But this won’t happen unless resources are found quickly to help Alan Johnson and TUC leaders to make the case against Brexit with wit, verve and vigour – a Project Hope for centre-left and working class voters.
It is not too late but time is running out.
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