Monday, 22 February 2016
EU debate, the Boris factor
As noted in an earlier post, the trouble with referendums is that people tend to vote on something other than the question on the ballot paper - as often as not to give the authorities a kick in the teeth whatever the actual issue at stake.
Boris Johnson's carefully choreographed announcement that he is to vote for "OUT" illustrates that this dubiously legitimate use of referendums applies to leading campaigners as well we humble voters. If Johnson has, as he claims, agonised for weeks if not longer as to which side to come down on, then he must be able to see the pros and cons of both sides and feel that the difference between them is not great. So his motive for entering the argument with such panache must presumably be other than a firm conviction that it is immeasurably better for the UK to be out rather than in.
Presumably the scenario he has in mind is that, if the outs win, then Cameron may resign in disgrace and he, Johnson, hero of the successful out campaign, will be a shoe-in for the next leader of the Conservative Party. Maybe Cameron will resign at once and he, Johnson, will step into his shoes as Prime Minister.
So, as far as Johnson is concerned, the referendum is not really about the merits of the question of Britain's future in or out of Europe, but of Johnson in or out of 10 Downing Street.
Johnson will certainly bring colour to the campaign, but let's hope the electorate are reasonably quizzical about the motive for his antics.