Tory Election Chief: Leave Campaign Risks Losing Referendum If Immigration Case Is Neglected


With some recent polls showing the Remain campaign enjoying a nine point lead in the European Union (EU) referendum campaign, a leading strategist has warned that while the pro-EU side is maximising the potential of the economic arguments, the Leave campaign – now headed up by Tory cabinet ministers – is neglecting their strong immigration case.

Recent polling suggests the Remain campaigners are catching Leave supporters in terms of turnout, coming close to overturning one of the pro-Brexit campaign’s advantages, reports the Independent.

Remaining static, around 70 per cent of Brexit supporters say they will vote on 23 June, but Remain supporters have moved up from 61 to 65 per cent. Even more worrying for the Leave campaign is the growing lead the pro-EU side is opening up.

The latest ORB survey for the Telegraph found that if the referendum was held today, 52 per cent would back remaining in the EU. On the other side 43 per cent would vote to leave, a five point drop from the previous poll.

Writing for the Telegraph, David Cameron’s election-winning strategist Sir Lynton Crosby suggests that part of the problem is the Leave campaign’s failure to maximise the potential of one of their strongest arguments, namely immigration.

Sir Lynton writes:

Currently 41 per cent of the British population would vote Leave. But 52 per cent of the British population say that leaving the EU would improve the UK’s immigration system.

There is therefore a misalignment – this shows that there is at least 11 per cent of the British electorate who are not voting Leave despite believing it will improve that state of immigration in the UK. This demonstrates that for this section of the population, immigration is not important enough or relevant enough an issue at present to bring them around to voting for Leave.

This is what is known as a ‘pull’ factor – something that voters believe to be true or consider to be important but are currently acting in a way that will not secure its realisation.

If the Leave campaign can make the changes to the immigration system or advocate changes that would result from Brexit and so make them more important in voters’ decision making, there is at up to 11 per cent of the population they can win over.

There is evidence that the message is getting through to Leave campaigners, following a keynote speech delivered by Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Michael Gove earlier today.

Explaining how leaving the EU would allow the UK to control its borders and develop an immigration policy “which is both truly humane and in our long term economic interests,” Mr. Gove said:

I think we would benefit as a country if we had a more effective and humane immigration policy, allowing us to take the people who would benefit us economically, offering refuge to those genuinely in need, and saying no to others.

And my ambition is not a Utopian ideal – it’s an Australian reality.

Instead of a European open-door migration policy we could – if a future Government wanted it – have an Australian points-based migration policy. We could emulate that country’s admirable record of taking in genuine refugees, giving a welcome to hardworking new citizens and building a successful multi-racial society without giving into people-smugglers, illegal migration or subversion of our borders.

Both sides of the referendum campaign must persuade voters of the merits of their case. However, Sir Lynton warns that is not enough, explaining “they must also make the consequences of the referendum vote personally relevant to voters.”

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Gove’s invocation of the immigration issue can sway enough voters to win the referendum.

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