The wonderful thing about a referendum is that everyone’s voice carries exactly the same weight. ‘The prince and the pauper’ have one vote each and they count for exactly the same. It was strange, therefore, that the early days of the campaign were dominated by how one man, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, would cast his one vote. And in a highly orchestrated melodrama, clearly designed to attract as much attention as possible, the Mayor of London announced that he would be supporting the Leave camp in the EU poll in June.
But with caveats. Boris gave the distinct impression that really he would rather the UK stayed in the EU, and that he thought an Out vote was the best way to get the other countries to give more concessions to us. It was, in fact, a very nuanced message. And nuance suits neither Boris’ unique communications style nor the demands of modern political campaigning. It also allowed David Cameron to quip that he had ‘never known anyone seek to renew their marriage vows by starting divorce proceedings.’
The private conflict between Dave and Boris, rumbling since schooldays, is now well and truly out in the open with raised voices between the two on the floor of the Commons. Cameron feels like he gave Boris everything to bring him into his camp, and that Boris’ position is motivated purely by how it places him for the next leadership contest. For both men, the stakes could not be higher. As Cameron fights for his legacy, Boris does for his future. And whilst the referendum remains one-man-one-vote, this personal political psychodrama will continue to offer a fascinating backdrop from now until June and beyond.