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EU referendum: Make or break for Boris

If this referendum was a 2005 Marks and Spencer advert it would say ‘This is not just any referendum’. That’s because the vote, which is set to take place on 23 June, is a leadership contest, second independence referendum, a big influence on the local elections and a vote which could shape Westminster in 2020, all rolled into one.

If Scotland votes to stay but the rest of the UK votes to drag Britain out of the EU, then Scotland could opt for another say on whether they should be independent. The referendum could greatly influence the way the public votes in May’s devolved government and local elections, but there is a battle royal brewing over who should be the next leader of the Conservative Party and the key players are already making political manoeuvres.

Of course there is lots of talk about the effects on Britain if we vote to leave the EU but what about the politicians who are breaking away from the party line and joining Vote Leave and Leave.EU? This referendum could make or break politicians, and not just minor names in the Westminster arena, but big beasts like David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Being the Prime Minister who led a referendum campaign and lost, leading to the UK being pulled out of the EU does not look great on the CV and ultimately could mean that he has to give up his job. Boris Johnson is the man with the most to gain (Dave’s job for one thing), but equally the most to lose though.

He’s a popular politician whose antics get the attention of even those with very little political interest. The extremely well educated Mayor of London and MP has crafted an image for himself as the lovable fool and it works greatly to his advantage. That is something he and the rest of the Leave campaign are hoping he can use to their advantage, as his unique cult of personality gets the backing of even non-Conservative voters. People tend to forget his chequered marriage history when he’s busy pratting around. This move is not only about getting Britain out of the EU but he is also setting himself apart from the rest of the pack of Tories hoping to take Cameron’s job when he steps down at some point over this current parliament.

His own father, who backs the UK staying in the EU, said that his son’s decision is more of a political risk than a tactical move to pit himself as an alternative to Theresa May and George Osbourne. If he loses Boris could drift away into obscurity as the one who called it so horribly wrong and backed the wrong horse. If the Leave campaign loses by a big margin he could equally look wildly out of touch with public opinion and unfit to be Prime Minister.

If he wins though he’s the champion who saved Britain from the EU whilst the rest of the frontbench did nothing. Boris has the unique chance to stand out in a not so crowded team of politicians voting to leave. Farage and Boris are the only two top dogs in the Out camp compared to the crowded field of the In campaign and they really do have the chance to get their voice heard more than ever before, whilst the In campaign members squabble to get their soundbite on the news despite trying to appear united and working as one.

Osbourne has been lined up for the job of Cameron’s replacement by taking over at Prime Minister’s Questions often when Cameron is away. He is certainly the favourite as he already quite clearly acts as Cameron’s number two, as a Chancellor so often does. Backing the wrong side in the referendum may not damage him as much as it could Cameron but what it will do is shuffle him aside whilst Boris rides his wave of victory that could go all the way to Number 10 perhaps.

Let’s be honest, Boris may have always had long held grievances with the EU and now is his chance to put them to rest by doing what he sees as right, but I cannot for one second belief the leadership contest and the ramifications of this move on that contest did not cross his mind. Johnson has made a decision with becoming the next leader of his party and the country in mind and he’s setting himself apart from the opposition. 23 June is truly make or break for Johnson.

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