It is time to return to the Brexit issue with a very heavy heart. In the next few days, the Electoral Commission will decide which campaigns for Stay or Remain in Europe will get the designation that provides them with the lucre they need to flood us with propaganda for the subsequent twelve weeks.
The Stay decision is simple: there is one candidate Britain Stronger in Europe. It will get the nomination. The Leave pitch is competitive between two campaigns, Vote Leave and the Grassroots Out Movement.
Britain Stronger in Europe has been widely criticised as inactive ('vapid' in the language of one of our informants), relying on the Government to do all the leg work for it. In fact, it has been planning its strategy for a long time, has known it will have the funds because of the lack of any rival and can rely on the full force of the Labour Party's official machinery to create a second front as soon as the May Elections are over. It can also present 'positive' arguments after allies have created a climate of almost certainly unjustifiable fear over what Brexit will mean to economic prospects.
The Leave side of the game is, frankly, ramshackle, having thrown away at least six months or more of opportunity to create a viable communications strategy on childish squabbling, attempts to detach groups from each other, internal right-wing narcissism and the strategic incompetence of rich men playing at the profession of politics. Worse, it has positioned itself as irretrievably right-wing, alienating its own left wing almost terminally and seeming, at times, to be more concerned with position-taking in or against the Tory Party than with the final result.
The public is confused. It craves facts when there is no decisive and little reliable data. It does not have the tools to undertake its own political education. It has been buffeted with strategies of fear - of economic collapse and immigration - and with sentimental assertion that appeals to all the prejudices of those tribally attached to Centre-Left (Stay) or Right (Leave). Our assessment is that ignorance and insecurity, combined with the special interests of political blocs may well result in a vote for Stay but with a residue of distrust that will affect politics for years to come.
What should have been a vote on a fundamental issue of principle dictating the destiny of a nation has become the plaything of entirely different political struggles. The Leave campaign has become associated with a struggle for power within the Tory Party over its leadership and the ambition of UKIP to undermine Labour in the working class. Labour Stay has become a proxy means by which the old guard can energise its machine to seize power back from the Corbynistas. For the SNP, it is a mere debating point for establishing the ground rules for a second Scottish Referendum.
The Vote on June 23rd will probably resolve nothing. The activists on both sides are becoming increasingly bitter, especially the Labour Leavers in the street who feel betrayed by the Rightists in the Leave campaigns. The result will not easily be accepted by either side unless it is truly decisive. Even a win for Stay is entirely contingent on Cameron's deal being honoured when there is little incentive for it to be honoured in a European Union that is crumbling before our eyes and knows that its problems can only be resolved with more integration. This one may run and run yet.