The EU Referendum is just 33 days away and don’t we know it. The PM let slip he can’t wait for the referendum to be over yesterday and he is probably not alone. The Referendum has had a paralysing effect on British politics. With the machinery of government slowing and little red meat for Tory voters in the Queen’s Speech, there is little to distract from the EU referendum and the slow motion car crash it is turning into for Tory unity.
Pollsters are increasingly coming down in favour of a Remain victory but it is still all to play for. The latest Comres survey for ITV News shows Labour voters overwhelmingly in favour of remain with an 80:20 split. Not so for the blue team. They’re plagued by division over Europe and Comres shows Remain a nudge ahead amongst Tory voters on 51:49. Mr Corbyn might be a reluctant inner but at least he leads his Party on wanting to stay in Europe. Mr Cameron has one Tory voter against him for every one in favour – that’s not the ingredients for a fun stay in Number 10.
The whispers from Tory insiders this week is that once the EU Referendum is over, and given a slowing economy, will the legislation contained in this Queen’s Speech be enough to hold the Government together? Or will the rebellions from MPs get worse and more difficult – just at the point where there is less and less money to buy them off? Whether organised or ad hoc, rebellious MPs could derail what is left of Cameron’s premiership. Remember, the Tories enjoy only a slim majority and it does not take many honourable members to believe honour is best served voting against the Government, or abstaining, to risk defeat.
In 34 days we’ll know the results and then the merry-go-round of British politics will resume. But it won’t be the same. No one honestly believes that Boris Johnson will satisfy himself with a close second or a narrow win. The Referendum is a launch pad for the inevitability: a Boris bid for Number 10. And it might well be the end of the Cameron years. With Osborne still wounded, Theresa May polling well and Boris’s bus tour wooing Tory grassroots across the land, the playing field is wide open