Commentary by Gabriella ATKINS
It seems that every day the news contains another story focusing on another politician’s declaration of their stance in the run up to the Referendum on 23rd June 2016. In light of this barrage of information, we’ve put together a quick guide to some of the key players on both sides of the campaign.
An umbrella organisation, GO Movement, has united many of the Out group factions, but Vote Leave has not joined. GO Movement is now vying to become the official ‘Out’ campaign.
In January 2016, David Cameron announced that ministers would be allowed to depart from the principle of collective responsibility in order to campaign for either side in the referendum. The UK constitutional convention of collective ministerial responsibility means that whilst ministers are able to hold dissenting viewpoints on a personal level, they must publicly support all government decision made in the Cabinet. This ensures that the government presents a unified front to the populace, and allows for the exercise of a vote of no confidence in which the government can be held collectively responsible. Ultimately, David Cameron was left with the option to allow dissenting opinion to flourish or face mutiny by forcing his Cabinet to present a front they may not agree with. However, he has been adamant that the government as a whole will have a clear position, and this has emerged as supporting Britain Stronger in Europe.
Boris Johnson’s declaration that he will campaign for Out has raised controversy. Both David Cameron and George Osborne have expressed concern that Boris Johnson is acting in an opportunistic fashion in order to gain Tory votes and even Johnson’s family have expressed concern over his choice of decision.
John Longworth, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, resigned following his suspension for revealing his support for Brexit at the BCC annual conference. Nora Senior, the BCC president, emphasised that the organisation’s declaration of neutrality meant, following canvassing from members, it was not going to campaign for either side of the referendum.
The press is finding itself torn between its readership and its owners. Whilst The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times and The Daily Mirror are expected to stick to their marginally pro-European routes, the Tory press is much more split. The Telegraph’s readers are generally Eurosceptic but its owners are more sympathetic to concerns Brexit may have on the economy. The Sunday Times and The Times are attempting to stay neutral, but Rupert Murdoch, who owns these two papers, appears to be more in favour of Brexit. Furthermore, The Sun, also owned by Murdoch, is distinctly anti-European. In a similar fashion, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail are vehemently anti-European. The BBC attempts to remain neutral and deliver unpartisan news but how long will it be able to hold up this front?