Politics, we’ve long been told, is not a British interest. More people watched the final of The Great British Bake Off, for example, than voted for our current Conservative Government. This Referendum has undoubtedly changed that.
The turnout tomorrow is predicted to be above 80 per cent, not far off that of 2014’s Scottish Independence Referendum. A record breaking 46.5m people have signed up to vote tomorrow and, as if to echo the sheer scale yesterday Wembley Stadium played host to the final cross party debate in front of 4,000 people.
As a seasoned politico, having worked across several national, European and local elections in my time, including the poorly remembered 2011 Alternative Vote turnout, it’s fair to say that apathy, rather than anarchy runs the mood at election time. Until now.
These past few months, I’ve been one of the increasingly visible red, white and blue representatives on your high street, knocking on your door and shovelling leaflets through your letterbox.
Almost a decade after I pinned on my rosette and knocked on my first door, I can honestly say that we are in new political era.
It’s a rare day when I hear a heckle about abstaining or someone telling me they didn’t know there was a vote, which happens a lot in General, and especially local, elections.
It is fair to say that tensions have, more than any campaign I have witnessed, run high. Straight bananas, red tape, and migration have all be cited as reasons to leave the EU whilst the impact on the economy (at one point £100 billion was speculatively wiped off the UK markets last week), international security and the knock on effect on a potential break-up of the European bloc have all been pushed as reasons to remain.
And despite the single issue vote, the wider issues of who we are as a nation have broadened the debate, especially around immigration. And, of course, there has been the setting of stalls as leadership bids slowly unfurl across the media. This election will, irrespective of the outcome, change the face of British party politics, and the Conservatives will have a considerable amount of soul searching to do to discover whether their current divides are surmountable.
Clearly neither campaign is perfect, and both sides have risen to (or plumbed the depths of) such hyperbole that unpicking the case on either side is exceptionally difficult.
Some parts of the media have been keen to play up what they see as the disingenuity of politicians normally seen to be seen to be at loggerheads, Cameron and Khan’s joint platform being the most published example, and there has been a certain reluctance by the Labour to throw themselves into the fray. This is especially true of Leader Jeremey Corbyn, as many within his camp viewing the cross party campaign to keep Britain unified as the reason for their catastrophic loss of Scottish Seats in the subsequent 2015 General Election.
What is obvious is that many people are angry and disenfranchised with the ‘establishment’ and the layers of bureaucracy that come with Brussels. Whichever way the vote goes, almost half of the population may well feel ‘failed’ by a democracy that didn’t go their way.
Either way, it could take the country years to knit together the raw wounds this bitter campaign has created.
What certainly can be agreed is that Britain is the most politically engaged it has been in decades, with everything to play for: the importance of national engagement has never been clearer.
Kate Turner, Account Manager