If the UK votes to leave the EU, mark the evening of June 13th 2016 as the time when everything changed.
The news of two new polls broke last night. You Gov recorded a seven point lead for Leave, and ICM reported a six point lead. My social media stream, mostly populated by left wing people, was mostly silent. I think the reaction was one of shock and incredulity. The nightmare of Remain supporters could be becoming a reality very sharply.
Also, The Sun came out backing Brexit. That is of no real surprise to anyone, but The Sun does not lead opinion, it follows it. It only backs who it seriously thinks will win, and this can be judged by the way it has backed the GE winner for a very long period of time. If The Sun backs your horse, it’s probably favourite to win.
This morning, the social media streams that were stunned into silence last night, have gone into panic mode. You can smell the fear. Remain just might be heading for serious electoral kicking. The public could be about to reject a core belief of the UK’s mainstream progressive parties.
At this point it is vital all progressive parties think very, very hard. It has two choices.
Firstly, it can continue to run around like Chicken Licken, screaming the sky is about fall down should the vote go for Brexit next week. Will this help? Almost certainly not. All sorts of negative information about what Brexit could mean has been the core of the Remain argument for weeks, yet the referendum is going away from them. If the public has discounted the risks already, there is no sign yet further warnings will help either. The remain campaign looks like a collective group of Cassandras
Alternatively, it can begin to think how it could influence a post-Brexit United Kingdom. Occasionally politics goes through a sea change. In 1979, there was no going back for Labour. They had been heavily beaten. In 1997, when Tony Blair routed the Conservatives, the game had changed. Labour and the Conservatives spent a long time in opposition until they realised change was required, before the public would listen to them again. In the same fashion, progressive parties need to consider an independent United Kingdom, and how they can ensure they are part of the process that rewrites what is a brand new rule book.
If they can’t learn and adapt to the new political geography, they will simply be ignored, and the foundations of the country will be written by conservative and reactionary forces. It is time for progressive parties to move on from the apron strings of the EU and work out how Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid can cooperate and ensure they lay down the foundation blocks. Holding grudges about who voted for what during this referendum is pointless, and will result in wasted years of counter-productive arguments, while the electorate shake their heads and give their support to other parties.
The left needs to wake and smell the coffee fast. If the public vote to leave the EU, the left had better accept it or be irrelevant.