We have a unique situation in the Conservative Party where its members are involved in simultaneous campaigns where in one of them we are campaigning together and the other where we on opposing sides. On a Saturday morning a group of local Conservatives might be joining together on a street stall in London with balloons and leaflets where they accost passers with the plea that they vote for Zac Goldsmith for Mayor of London. Then after a spot of lunch in a convenient pub it’s back to the street campaigning in the afternoon. But this time on street stalls on opposite sides of the square – with one decorated with bunting from “Stronger IN” while the other is emblazoned with the message “Vote Leave.”
My impression is that this curious state of affairs has been greeted with equanimity by Conservative activists, despite the strength of feeling over the EU referendum. So important to retain a sense of humour. Of course the difficulty has also diminished by there being a reasonable gap between May 5th and June 23rd, the respective dates of the contests. Many Conservatives will concentrate on the local elections and then – perhaps having slumped exhausted for the weekend of May 7th/8th and thus fully rejuvenated – begin the EU referendum campaigning in earnest on Monday May 9th.
What also helps is for senior figures in the Party to set an example. This week David Cameron sat next to Boris Johnson undertaking some telephone canvassing for Zac Goldsmith. I’m assured by those present that fare from being awkward the atmosphere was convivial. Cabinet ministers on both sides of the Brexit debate joined them.