One of the reasons by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP are pushing for an election now is because they have given up hope of MPs voting for a second referendum in this parliament. This is how Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, explained it on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday. She said:
I have worked hard in parliament to try to secure a majority for a people’s vote. It hasn’t been forthcoming. Even this week we tabled an amendment. We have tabled amendments for a people’s vote 17 times and Labour have not backed them in sufficient numbers. In contrast, 19 Labour MPs voted for Boris Johnson’s deal.
But this morning Tom Baldwin, communications director for the People’s Vote campaign, insisted that there was a majority in the current House of Commons for a second referendum. He told the Today programme:
The more people look at Boris Johnson’s deal, the more they realise this is perhaps not quite what was promised. And if we can expose Boris Johnson’s deal for what it is, I believe there is a majority in the current House of Commons for a confirmatory referendum.
When challenged on this, he repeated the point about the majority being there for a second referendum once the flaws in Johnson’s deal were obvious. He explained:
[The majority is there] when you have exposed Boris Johnson’s deal for what it is. What I have said all the way through is that our strategy is to be the last thing standing. We are not an option in this crisis. We are a solution to it.
I described Baldwin as the communications director of the People’s Vote campaign but that is a moot point because Baldwin was on the programme to discuss the reports that emerged last night that he had been sacked. Here is our overnight story about the row.
Baldwin told the Today programme that he did not actually work for Roland Rudd, one of the People’s Vote campaign figureheads and the person who supposedly sacked him, and that he would be going into work as normal today.
In a subsequent interview Rudd said that Baldwin had not been fired, but that he was being offered “an opportunity for a different type of role”.
Rudd also said he thought there was “a real opportunity” this week to get MPs to vote for a confirmatory referendum. “We’ve got more MPs supporting us than ever before and I think we have every chance to be able to get that prize, which is being able to put it back to the people,” he said.
As Michael Savage explained in this Observer article at the weekend, the row at the People’s Vote campaign is largely about strategy, and the extent to which it should transform into an overt remain campaign. But, as with most feuds in smallish political organisation, personality clashes are thought to have been a factor too.
People’s Vote supporters can take comfort from the fact that something very similar happened to the Vote Leave campaign in 2016. Dominic Cummings, its campaign director, came close to being ousted in a boardroom coup, but survived. Vote Leave went on to win.