The Brexit vote was so close that a number of small things could be claimed to account for it. The deliberate lie on the side of the Brexit battlebus was one I’ve mentioned before: who wouldn’t vote for another £350 million a week for the NHS? Another is this fellow:
who was one of Brexit’s surprise spokesmen, after months of indecision on his part. What, one wonders, might have been the outcome if Boris Johnson had backed his Eton chum Cameron in June last year, as the latter was clearly hoping? He only had to bring 2% of voters over to make the crucial difference.
For the main thing we can say about public opinion at that time – including mine – was that most of it was neither particularly pro- nor anti-Europe, but undecided, not terribly strong, and ignorant. The zealots – including the tabloid press – made most noise; but Britain is not a nation of zealots on the whole, at least as regards foreign policy. (The same was true during the age of imperialism, to don my historian’s hat again. Most Britons then were apathetic. See my Absent-Minded Imperialists.) People feel much more strongly over other things. It was those other things, as I argued at the time (https://bernardjporter.com/2016/06/16/is-it-really-about-the-eu/), that determined the way our EU referendum went. Which means that trivial 2% factors, like Boris’s clownish personality, could have had more of an impact than they deserved.
He surely can’t last long as Foreign Secretary. He’s clearly no statesman, and is a laughing stock abroad (certainly here in Sweden). Theresa ‘strong and stable’ May (a phrase she repeated nineteen times in a single short speech the other day: how very Goebbelsy) seems, so far, to be hiding him during the current General Election campaign. It’s clear that she’s depending on apathy (together with the media) to win that for her, so long as her side doesn’t suffer too many pratfalls. Boris is pratfall prone.
‘Hello funny foreign people… I am Boris from Britannia and I come to do diplomacy and stuff’. (Not original; from another blog I can’t recall.)
But so too is Theresa, or so she seems to suspect, judging by the way she is assiduously avoiding TV leaders’ debates, public appearances (except among ‘trusties’), and even interviews with the press. The only way people might still cling to the idea that she is ‘strong and stable’ is if they don’t see too much of her. She hasn’t had time to prove her qualities yet; which is all to her advantage. For us, the electorate, better the devil you don’t know, than the one you think you know from the hostile press. The Tories have got it all worked out.