When the Government sent out a leaflet urging voters to vote to REMAIN in the EU, I was assured by many that this was a good thing for the LEAVE campaign. The logic underpinning this article of faith was that the people of the UK would get worked up into righteous indignation by the sight of the Government backing and promoting just one side of the debate. This outrage would cause the nation to vote LEAVE just to spite the Government for not playing fair. This never made a lot of sense to me, and my understanding of the way the world actually works was rewarded by a swift shift in the betting markets in favour of REMAIN.
Then President Obama came to the UK and told us in no uncertain terms that we were much stronger in the EU than out of it, and that leaving would push us to the back of the queue in our dealings with the US. No sooner had he said this than I was assured once more that this was a good thing for the LEAVE campaign. Once again the logic underpinning this belief was that the people would get worked up into righteous indignation that the President of the United States might seek to speak about the UK’s future trade relationship with the United States. This outrage would cause the people to turn against the President and they would vote LEAVE to spite him. Yet again this didn’t make much sense to me, and my judgement was rewarded by a further swift shift in the betting markets toward REMAIN.
In between these events George Osborne defended the Treasury view that exiting the EU would cost households in the UK an average of £4,300 a year. You have guessed. I was assured that this was good news for the LEAVE campaign because people would be so outraged at what they would see as a Treasury-Osborne conspiracy that they would vote to leave the EU just to spite the Chancellor and his Treasury advisers. Yes, I didn’t believe that for a moment, and the betting markets proved me right.
The response of the markets was, in fact, in accord with straightforward intuition, that something which might be expected to favour one side of the argument generally does so, and that more complex counter-intuitions are usually wrong. It’s an instance of what is known as Occam’s Razor, that the simplest explanation of what is going on is usually to be preferred to a more convoluted one.
There is one straightforward deduction to be drawn from all this, however, which doesn’t need some Orwellian application of double-think, and it is to be found in the likely impact on turnout of these three episodes.
A Government leaflet, sent to every household, and widely linked to on social and other media, is likely to drive up turnout. A Treasury analysis claiming that the average household would lose £4,300 a year from leaving the EU is likely to focus the minds of many, not least those who can least afford to lose that sort of money, who otherwise tend to be the least likely to vote. The President of the USA telling the country in no uncertain terms that we would, if we left the EU, go to the back of the queue in our dealings with the US, is not the sort of pronouncement to be taken lightly.
So all of these things are likely to drive turnout. And that is critical. The greatest fear of the campaign to stay in the EU, the so-called ‘IN crowd’, has always been that a low turnout would benefit the fired-up Brexiters.
For this reason, I now believe that the 11/4 advised previously on a VOTE share for REMAIN of 50-55% should be hedged with the same stake on a vote share for REMAIN of 55-60%. Currently available at 7/2 with SkyBet.