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The Brexit referendum on June Twenty third will most likely be all about David Cameron

By BAGEHOT

DAVID CAMERON returned home from Brussels final night to blended opinions. The likes of Nigel Farage had been always going to pan his “renegotiation” of Britain’s EU membership (and did now no longer disappoint). Less predictable used to be the melancholy verdict from most ceaselessly friendlier sources. “Skinny Gruel” ran the chief headline within the Times, while the Spectator deemed the EU to have “known as the prime minister’s bluff”. Michael Gove, a conclude ally who had been anticipated to bite his Eurosceptic tongue, has upright declared for the Out campaign (his commentary conforming, nearly the general type down to individual sentences, to the whiggish case for Brexit save to me currently by Dominic Cummings, his confidante and ancient adviser). Within the interim Boris Johnson might per chance rapidly contort his (in point of fact Europhile) tongue into an opportunistic endorsement for Brexit. And even Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP who for years has overwhelmed the drum for renegotiation, declared for Out this morning minutes after Mr Cameron had launched in Downing Avenue that the referendum would take field on June 23rd.

Spare the prime minister tiny pity, for he has been on what politicians adore to call a “hump”. Before January 2013, when he launched his plan to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and save the result to a referendum, the topic had now no longer been now no longer one of many fairly about a about which the prime minister knew or notion noteworthy. Downing Avenue’s offer of trip and contacts used to be miserable. Thus inhibited, its EU coverage so some distance had amounted to tactical raids; even the 2011 British block on an EU rescue deal, subsequently dressed up as a coup, used to be half of brinkmanship long past negative. Looking on the Bloomberg speech in 2013, I sat within the again of Daniel Hannan, a notoriously anti-EU Tory MEP, who used to be buried in his mobile phone busily drafting and redrafting a tweet offering his conception. As Mr Cameron went on, the draft became progressively more alive to. This used to be an early (and now no longer isolated) trace that, below-briefed and over-optimistic, Mr Cameron used to be allowing expectations glean noteworthy, noteworthy too high.

Renegotiation, schmenegotiation

So they proved. The fable of the intervening years is that of his gradual recognition that alliance-constructing and compromise, now no longer foot-stamping and unilateralism (or the “Cameron Show”, as Germany’s Spiegel exasperatedly calls it), is the type to glean issues performed in Brussels. Because the renegotiation geared up after the election final year, the prime minister hired contemporary advisers, toured the continent nurturing relationships and progressively moderated his demands. The outcome is a modest but respectable bundle that can have long past down better at home had the prime minister levelled alongside with his celebration, and what the political scientist Tim Bale calls “the celebration within the media”, earlier within the strategy.

The mighty recordsdata is that the renegotiation is of secondary relevance within the upcoming referendum campaign. Principal of the electoral landscape is already mounted; as I argue in my column this week, the mountainous European divide in Britain is completely about education and class. And as I pointed out on the originate of the summit, of the variable components Mr Cameron’s deal might per chance per chance be within the second half of-dozen, by inform of significance. Elevated up are the fortunes of the economy and the screech of the migrant disaster when Britons solution to vote (Enrico Letta, the frequent Italian prime minister, warned in opposition to preserving a referendum this summer, citing the day after day photos of chaos on the continent that will get tv shows).

The aged-automobile test

Nonetheless nothing will topic as noteworthy as Mr Cameron’s standing. Mediate it or now no longer, voters are now no longer terribly all in favour of Europe. Within the Ipsos MORI disorders index it has lengthy bumped alongside well below other political issues. At the same time because it has spiked within the past months—now no longer least thanks to the prime minister’s theatrics—it has remained below most other mighty coverage areas (adore education, housing and poverty, now to no longer demonstrate healthcare and the economy) and some distance, some distance below its historical top within the early 2000s. Eurostat polling means that Britons are the worst- or second-worst educated electorate within the EU by formula of the workings of the union. So the facts of the topic are at easiest peripheral. The referendum will most likely be decided by mood and belief.

Take into yarn the general questions. How tolerable is the screech quo? Does the authorities peek valid and capable? Is the nation well-speed? Which campaign has basically the most credibility? Whose dire warnings about dangers (for every side will deal closely in that forex) seem most believable? Which abyss appears to be like darker and deeper? What’s going to voters risk to stay two fingers up on the establishment? Each of those questions turns significantly on Mr Cameron’s non-public charm and abilities. If it at demonstrate appears to be like adore the In campaign will prevail, that is because he stays relatively well-loved and revered (with the emphasis on relatively). The Out camp can have Mr Gove and maybe Mr Johnson, but otherwise it is a bunch of cupboard no-names and fringe eccentrics. Closing night’s chaotic pro-Brexit rally, fronted by Mr Farage and George Galloway, highlighted that noteworthy. It doesn’t pass the “would you glean a aged automobile from this seller?” test. For all his flaws, and those of his renegotiation, Mr Cameron does. Backed up by ranks of industry leaders, the majority of his cupboard and nearly the complete Labour Occasion, significantly so.

A well being warning is due to the this reality warranted. Within the arriving months, day-to-day recordsdata will most likely be pored over for its most likely elevate out on the In-Out balance. The funding, slogans, web sites, endorsements and social-media presence of the campaigns will most likely be compared and rated. News from the continent will most likely be anatomised for home significance. Principal of this might per chance be nonsense. There is a respectable formula of distinguishing signal from noise. Attach a question to: does this significantly pass voters’ belief within the establishment and/or their preference for the screech quo over risky alternate options? The save the acknowledge is yes, the vogue in ask will most ceaselessly, straight or in some plot, anxiousness the person of the prime minister (a authorities corruption scandal, inform, or a serious public-service failure). The renegotiation might per chance be over, however the right “Cameron Show” has upright begun.

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