Undercover at Vote Leave

The York Racecourse hosted Boris Johnson, former London Mayor, to preach Brexit to the converted. , an outspoken “Bremainer”, dons a Vote Leave t-shirt to investigate

A sea of grey hair – turn on the TV and you’d be forgiven for not drowning in it. This is an audience the cameras tend to turn away from: Boris, ever the beacon of sprightly blonde, is instead seen to be surrounded onstage by swathes of York students.

Except these few students were half the young people attending. The demographic divide is clear: the Leave camp, despite being free to invent concepts of what an independent Britain could look like, has failed to attract youthful idealism. Equally, Remain campaigners have done little to challenge the narrative that the European Union is the preserve of a new, entrenched middle class.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at last night’s Vote Leave rally. The whole event shrieked informality: beers flowing, regional accents abundant, no security at the door – a rather proletarian affair. Many believe this is how real politics should operate. It seems, then, that Mr Johnson has conveniently become the new man of the people, in time for the post-referendum vote of no confidence in Cameron.

This is the kind of political capital that Farage is disqualified from using to its full potential – an amount that could launch Johnson from his City Hall past straight into Downing Street. So far, so predictable.

Your correspondent in appropriate garb.

Your correspondent in appropriate garb.
Image: Felix Forbes

Yet for someone who seeks to unify the country under his potential premiership, the cult of Boris did little to keep a lid on generational tensions. Once the rally was over, middle-aged cheerers all but satisfied and student photo-ops complete, a group of young people spent a considerable amount of time arguing with an older Brexit supporter.

Except, this one was wearing a Swastika. With it pictured next to wind turbines and the Euro sign on his green t-shirt, the man attempted to preach the horrors of Britain being forced to be “the capital of wind turbinisation” to these young people. Naturally, he blamed “EU directives” for such “on-shore” defilation of the countryside.

“I came here to be convinced,” Steve, one of the young people at the rally, said to Nouse. “But all I’ve seen is a lot of people who are scared of public affairs, scared of the future, and have seen a man who is doing nothing short of egging on people’s fears.”

He added that Johnson is “using nationalism as a tool to get his paws in on the electorate.”

“I bet he’d love to walk into Downing Street,” Steve remarked.

Many believe the Vote Leave attempt to gain the “optimist” mantle in this campaign is a mirage. This is undoubtedly due to a Brexit’s associations with invoking the legacy of Empire, British nationalism and the spirit of Thatcher – all belonging to an age gone by, yet also very much to a core Brexit vote.

Boris, and other Leave campaigners, would be shooting themselves in the foot if any attempt is made to disaffiliate. As such, the generational divide continues.

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