Monday mornings are miserable enough as it is, but this morning the Leave campaign decided to treat us to the double whammy of a furious column from Boris Johnson in the Telegraph and an irritable Iain Duncan Smith on the Today programme. The Mayor is angry about Obama and the way the Remain campaign has patronised voters, while Iain Duncan Smith was annoyed not just about the accusations of racism that were hurled at Johnson for his ‘half-Kenyan’ comments last week, but also about the offer that David Cameron and his colleagues are setting out as part of the Remain case. The whole interview was rather grumpy, and the tone of the campaign this week now looks rather crotchety.
Now, undoubtedly the European Union makes a number of people rather grumpy, but surely the curmudgeon vote in this referendum was sewn up long ago in favour of Brexit? The Leave campaign needs to convince undecided voters that Britain leaving the EU isn’t a risky move purely to satisfy grouchy people, but something that would be safe. And surely the best tone with which to convince those worried undecided voters is a calm, upbeat one, not a grouchy one? Boris Johnson has star appeal as a politician, and can offer the upbeat voice, but one of his major attributes when it comes to that star appeal could also be one of his weaknesses: he comes across as rather chaotic when the Leave campaign needs to reassure voters that there won’t be chaos as a result of a Brexit.
This week the Outers have moved the topic back to their strongest one: immigration. It is on this area that they can suggest that there are serious risks to staying in the EU, as well as staying out. But Leave also needs to think about the tone it takes when discussing more difficult topics, as nervous voters will be listening carefully. If the Remain campaign is operating a Project Fear strategy, Leave doesn’t want to come across as Project Grouch.