Mail on Sunday political columnist Dan Hodges today (27 April) warned 'Vote Leave' campaigners of over-emphasising the immigration issue in the upcoming EU referendum, instead advising them to focus on economic issues, or else risk ‘an inevitable win’ for the 'Britain Stronger In' campaign.
Hodges said the remain campaign “despite their faults” has already secured one major win - which is they own the economy. He said there are three issues that really matter in politics and they are: “the economy, the economy and the economy”.
This was the topic of conversation at Havas’ event ‘A Book and A Bite’ this morning, where Hodges said there is “an imbalance” in the way the out campaign has been framed when examining UK voting behaviour.
His view is supported by a ComRes poll conducted for ITV News in February where 46 per cent of participants said the economy was their top priority when deciding which way to vote in the EU referendum.
While immigration is the hot topic when debating Britain’s future in the EU, the economy is a less publicised yet more pressing factor, according to Hodges. It means for the out campaign to triumph, voters need to be convinced of the economic case for leaving.
At present most are not, according to the latest poll conducted by NatCen and published in the British Social Attitudes (BSA) series. Of 3,000 respondents, only 24 per cent believed that Britain's economy would be better off if it left the EU, while as many as 40 per cent felt it would be worse off.
"It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are BNP overtly discussing racism or the Labour party producing immigration policy, or Zac Goldsmith backing EU withdrawal in the mayoral race" Hodges said. "As soon as you bring the conversation on to immigration you can’t control it, it will toxify the brand and the campaign."
He said there are “dangers” towards moving the political conversation towards immigration, and that the leave campaign doing this will ‘solve the remain campaign’s turnout problem’.
He predicted that when polling day arrives it will come down to a weigh-up between economics and immigration, and that economics will prevail, citing the losses of UKIP - avid anti-immigration campaigners – in the recent UK general election as evidence of this.
Hodges is so confident of this notion, he predicted the Britain Stronger In campaign will win by a notable 10 to 15 point majority, saying: “I’m not sure it is even going to be that close”.