That’s it all over. It has been a long and often bizarre campaign, but it has not been as long or as bitter at the Scottish independence referendum. Thank goodness.
Nevertheless, just like the Scottish referendum the whole process – irrespective of the result – has changed British politics for good. The public has been presented with a stark choice, which is the nature of any referendum – and the facts that have been thrown at them from either side will be held out by the losers against the winners. The winners, meantime, will have a job to do to delivering on what they have said was possible.
For the last ten months I have worked with those campaigning for a leave vote but that has not prevented me from seeing the argument from both sides. As someone who advises about how the media works that’s a necessary condition.
By the time you read this the result may well be known, so here’s how I see it depending on the outcome.
If Leave wins then David hasn’t just beaten Goliath, he’s kicked him around the park. It will be a defeat of the establishment and all that it has marshalled from extra money, rule changing, the force of its machine and the pull upon outside organisations against their better judgement will have counted for nothing. (I mean, do you honestly think Obama’s speech was not drafted by Downing Street?)
That represents a political earthquake. It is not often the establishment is defeated. By coming out of the EU the British public will have got its voice back.
Looking ahead there will be a need to work harder than ever to ensure the government delivers on what the public has voted for, and nothing less. A leave needs to be a leave, not some half-way-house. Such an outcome was not on the ballot paper.
If remain wins then it is still highly likely that nearly half the UK wanted to leave the EU, and like the outcome of the Scottish referendum, these voters will have been energised and now care about issues that caused them to vote to leave. They will be looking to see what the government now does, if its so-called reforms are delivered and bear fruit.
You can therefore expect politicians to look to capitalise on his need, UKIP will naturally be well placed to do this, so people who think a remain vote will mean the death of UKIP are not thinking the consequences through. Just like the SNP capitalized on the 45% that lost, so too will UKIP capitalise on the 40-something per cent that lost this time.
It may not be Nigel Farage that leads UKIP for the next four years (I’ll tell you why in a future column) but there has to be a political receptacle for the huge disenchantment with the political elite and its love of the European Union.
If there is one thing that is certain, it is that things are only going to get worse in the EU, whether or not it involves the Euro currency, further migration or general disenchantment with the march towards a federal European state is of no consequence. The point is there will be issues that politicians will need to address. The idea that Cameron and Osborne are the people to do this surely holds no water.