With the vote on Britain's membership of the EU just a few days away now, I've begun to turn my thoughts to how much I'm looking forward to this cursed referendum being over.
Frankly, I'm fed up of it. Fed up of the misinformation from both sides of the debate, fed up of the same people dominating the news, fed up of the repetitive mantras, and fed up of wanting to throw stuff at the TV when David Cameron, Michael Gove, and the many other politicians who have been interviewed, REFUSE TO ANSWER THE B****Y QUESTION!
I'm not convinced that Thursday/Friday will be the end though. This referendum has well and truly divided Britain. You only really have to look at the current polls, which are showing Bremain and Brexit neck and neck, to truly appreciate that. If you consider the very strong possibility that the murder of Jo Cox MP was politically motivated, then it leads to the impression that this referendum is exposing very very very deep cracks in our society. I am growingly concerned that a simple outcome for this referendum will do nothing to repair those cracks – especially if it is quite as close as the polls are predicting.
So, the natural question is, what happens on Friday after the results have been announced?
I'm going to go through here a handful of distinctly possible outcomes. Some of these are mere conjecture on my part, others are based upon political commentary that I've read from people who are in the know on the mutterings around Westminster and Whitehall.
Scenario 1: David Cameron stays in office (with or without a leadership challenge), George Osborne delivers emergency budget in Autumn. Based on Labour party stating that they will vote against, and also a number of Conservative MPs (around 40-50) stating that they would vote against it, one would expect that it would fall. George Osborne forced to step down, along with David Cameron, who calls a General Election. Owing to the inevitable in-fighting in the Conservative Party, I would therefore expect Labour to be able to form a new government, either on their own, or in coalition, and then Jeremy Corbyn to begin negotiations with the EU to leave
Scenario 2: David Cameron is forced to step aside soon after the referendum, triggering a leadership contest, to include at least Boris Johnson and George Osborne. At this point, that contest would be impossible to call, but whoever wins would have a tough task to re-unite the party, and would potentially be forced to call a General Election.
In both of these cases, I believe that a General Election before the end of 2016 is inevitable. At which point, the question before voters would be less about the topics of the day, and more about who we trust most in negotiations with the EU, and who we trust most with public services etc. I would personally trust a left wing Government more in both of those cases, in order to provide the investment in our economy that would be needed in the first few years post-Brexit, and in order to safeguard our public services (like the NHS).
Another real uncertainty about the Brexit scenario, is what would happen with TTIP. Again, I personally trust the left wing more in that regard.
Scenario 1 – David Cameron stays in office (with or without a leadership challenge), nothing changes. Let's face it, this would be quite boring!
Scenario 2 – David Cameron steps aside soon after the referendum, triggering a leadership contest. I would largely expect George Osborne to win in that case, and the Conservatives to carry on in Government for the remainder of this Parliament.
Scenario 3 – David Cameron loses a leadership challenge (a substantial number of his MPs are said to be deeply unhappy with the way he has managed the party during the referendum). This would trigger a contest, which again, I would expect George Osborne to win, and stay in Government.
In all three cases, the status quo remains, and although it is likely that there would be some short-term political turbulence, that would not last long.
I must stress that these are all my opinions, and mostly speculative. I think I've covered quite a wide range of scenarios as to what might happen.
I will say this though – whoever is in power will have a very tough task ahead to repair the cracks in our society, whatever the outcome of Thursday's crunch vote.