Having tried to let the dust settle a bit over the past 10 days, I thought it was about time to document some of my thoughts.
There were many significant moments for me in the campaign, here are a few;
Firstly, we attended the launch of Go! in Kettering at the end of January. There was a real sense of hope and optimism that, with speakers from all parties, we could reach out to all voters.
The setting up of several rival Leave groups was seen by some as frustrating and damaging but I always maintained that each group appealed to a different demographic and therefore all groups were helping get the message out there. Only around the time of the designation of VoteLeave did I feel that it was in any way counter-productive.
Once the designation was settled, activists from all parties (and non-party) worked well together and I must pay tribute here to David Alexander who ran an excellent VoteLeave campaign in Surrey Heath.
As the campaign got under way it was clear that there was a world of difference between the doom-mongers on the Remain side, and the positive outward-looking Leave side. Ultimately I think this was a large part of what won the day.
I didn’t watch many of the TV debates but I did see the one from Wembley and the paradoxical situation of the TUC Leader slagging off the Banks for causing all our financial troubles and austerity while at the same time advocating a Remain vote that is precisely what those same Big Banks wanted and were funding to the tune of millions of pounds – I’m surprised no-one called her out on that.
The flotilla of fishing vessels also stood out as a symbol of the honest and hardworking vs an out of touch elite. Even some of the Labour supporters that were on Geldof’s boat became disgusted with the way the Remain camp treated the fishermen who have seen their livelihoods decimated by the EU.
Another lasting memory is the VoteLeave board that we put up in Camberley one Saturday and asked people to sign if they supported us. By the end of the day it was covered in signatures.
After blitzing areas of Frimley Green, Ash Wharf and Ash Vale in the three days before the election, I spent polling day telling in Ash Wharf and I was struck by how many people were first-time voters. Many of these were not youngsters just turned 18 but people of all ages who had clearly been galvanised to come out and vote – most of them voted Leave in my experience, as typified by one person who walked into the polling station and proclaimed
“Right, where do I vote to Leave the EU?”
I also overheard two girls talking, with one saying to the other “I hear David Beckham’s voting Remain”, to which the other replied, “yeah, but he’s thicker than a block of cheese, I’m voting Leave”.
In the end we (in Surrey Heath) did vote Leave, as did the country as a whole. In fact, if the election were on a first past the post basis the result would have been more than 68% of the ‘seats’ for Leave and less than 32% remain.
Since then the PM has resigned, Labour are in turmoil, the LibDems have prostituted themselves to the Remainers and, today, we hear that Nigel has stepped down as UKIP Leader as ‘his work is done’.
It’s been a roller-coaster few months in British politics, but the ride’s not over yet!