Much has been said and written about what Britain would look like if it votes to ‘Brexit’ on June 23rd, but what of the key players; what will happen to them and their political futures, after the nation casts its verdict?
When describing the EU referendum I will borrow a phrase from Will Self –
“This whole imbroglio is epiphenomenal”
As it is as much a shambolic battle for the soul of the Conservative Party, as it is about Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union.
If Britain votes to leave the EU David Cameron will disappear as fast as ‘shit off a shovel.’ While this may mean ‘advantage Johnson’ in his leadership bid, it will also lead to others, namely Osborne, and May throwing their hats in to the ring.
The issue of the European Union has been a wound on the belly of the Conservative Party for decades. Leaders have tried to scrape the exudate from the suppurating chasm and apply temporary dressings, however, it is a wound bereft of healing properties; and one that Boris Johnson is determined to plunge the heel of his hand-made leather loafers, into; infecting and tearing as he blunders towards the party leadership.
I expect the ‘Remain’ campaign to win, with between 52% and 56% of the vote. If my prediction is correct, then what situation will David Cameron and Boris Johnson find themselves in on June 24th?
Well, David Cameron has now found himself mired in a lose-lose situation. The Europhobic wing of the party are circling above his balding pate like a flock of vultures anticipating the last gasp of breath from a wounded buffalo before swooping and clawing at its ‘still warm’ carcass.
Crawling over the finish line is no longer good enough to satisfy his shrieking braying and swivel-eyed back benchers.
Nadine Dorries MP, who has accused David Cameron of ‘lying’ during the campaign, recently asserted that –
“If the ‘Remain’ camp wins by a large majority – I think it would have to be 60/40 – then David Cameron might just survive, but if ‘Remain’ win by a narrow majority or lose… he’s ‘toast’ within days.”
While I believe the ‘Remain’ campaign will be victorious, I don’t see them being able to muster 60% of the vote.
If this is the position of a significant number of Conservative MP’s, then it is difficult to see how Cameron’s position will be tenable.
If Britain votes to ‘Brexit’ then David Cameron will resign. If Britain votes to ‘Remain’ but only by a narrow margin, then his back-benchers will be gunning for him.
Cabinet Ministers and MP’s that have been attacking Cameron and Osborne over the EU are not likely to shut-up and stand back-in-line following the referendum; they will want to finish the job they started.
it is difficult to see how David Cameron can remain leader of his party beyond the summer. However, should he manage to cling to power in the months following the referendum his detractors within his party will continue to weaponise immigration, and attack Cameron’s failed manifesto pledge of cutting net-migration to the “tens of thousands.”
Despite it being just twelve months since Cameron won the first outright election victory for the Conservatives since 1992, his stock within the party is at an all-time low and growing increasingly toxic.
I believe that he will choose to jump ship before he is pushed, and will attempt a Blair-Brown style handing over of the reigns to his preferred successor, George Osborne.
This was always going to be their plan, but they expected to do it a few more years down the line, on their own terms, and in less ‘choppier’ seas than they are about to navigate.
The outraged Europhobes and fellow travellers within the Conservative party will have different ideas. They certainly do not want Cameron mk2; which Osborne would likely be.
Boris Johnson has gambled his entire political future on the EU referendum. I don’t believe he is especially concerned about the European Union, beyond its use as a convenient platform from which to destabilise David Cameron’s leadership.
The vision of this bumbling, unkempt huckster slithering the length and breadth of the country with his tales of woe about bananas, and his prattle-bus, has been absurd, and about promoting ‘Brand Boris.’ The selling of ‘Brexit’ has been very much a side-show.
The likes of Grayling, Duncan-Smith, Gove, Patel and associated hangers-on have been convenient dupes and useful idiots, in Johnson’s craven power games.
If the Brexit campaign wins, then by extension, so does Boris Johnson. Cameron will step down within days and the eager Johnson will waste no time in ‘gathering names’ in the poorly lit back-corridors of Parliament.
Should the ‘Remain’ campaign triumph, then Johnson will not allow his work of destabilising Cameron to be unexploited. He will build on it, and go for Cameron’s increasingly vulnerable jugular. He and his followers will have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Who will face their Waterloo?
Beyond the battle over membership of the European Union, the Europhile and Europhobic wings of the Conservative party are on a collision course to meet on June 23rd. Of their respective leaders; one will depart the field victorious, while the other will crawl away a battered and bloody mess, with a killer blow to be struck in the following weeks.