Boris Johnson and Brexit


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s amusing demolition of Boris Johnson’s pretensions attributes too much weight to the effect on the voter of popular politicians – even one who doubles as a newspaper columnist (“Boris Johnson has stopped being funny”, Opinion & Analysis, September 15th).

Fintan O’Toole considers that Johnson’s backing of Leave was “the single most decisive factor in the outcome” of the vote for Brexit. Well before the referendum, the issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union was considered by voters to be the leading issue facing the country.

Public attitudes were highly polarised.

Ukip won the most seats in the 2014 elections for the European Parliament and gained nearly four million votes in the 2015 general election.

A statistical analysis by academics at the London School of Economics of 121 opinion polls shows that Leave was in the lead throughout the referendum campaign.

The campaign itself made no difference to voters’ intentions.

Only two events did have an effect: US president Barack Obama’s “UK to the back of the queue” remark boosted, rather than diminished, Leave support, while the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox on June 16th precipitated an erosion in Leave support over the final week before the vote.

Disappointing as it may be to politicians and columnists, their bark is worse than their bite. – Yours, etc,