Maverick politician takes on the Prime Minister, the apparatus of government, middle-class “informed” opinion in an In/Out Referendum ….. and wins!
Does all this seem as if it could be familiar? It isn’t what you think.
Background to the Campaign: Because he was unsure of the backing of his own party the Prime Minister chose to hold a Referendum about in/out of the union rather than make it a matter of confidence in a general election.
Concessions and Consultations: Politicians of the “out” tendency first insisted on concessions for staying in, the Prime Minister yielded ground, and commenced consultations with the other countries. The “out” tendency seized the initiative as consultations moved slowly to their close.
The “In” Campaign: The “In” campaign was expected to win because it was led by the Prime Minister, backed by the apparatus of government, appealed to the middle-class, and spoke for a future with vision. This campaign appealed to the reason, and that the country got more out of the union than they put in.
The “Out” Campaign: The “Out” campaign was led by a maverick outside the political establishment who needed to find a purpose for his career. This campaign was backed by the very rich, the poor and those who did not usually take an interest in politics – it feared the threats to jobs by extensive immigration from neighbouring countries and that the standard of living would fall due to taxes imposed by the union. This campaign had the benefit of simplicity and directness. Representatives here brought personal attacks on leaders of other union countries into the campaign.
Prediction: It was assumed generally and internationally that the “In” campaign would win, even if the margin would be narrower than initially forecast. However reporters on the ground realised that at grass-roots level an upset was on the cards.
Opinion: Public opinion seemed to be divided equally, but whereas that for “In” was lukewarm that for “Out” was fervent.
Result: The “Out” campaign won by 54.1% to 45.9%
Decisive factor: Abstention in areas polling for the “In” campaign was greater than the majority achieved by the “Out” campaign.
Conclusion: Continued membership of the union fell by indifference rather than hostility.
Aftermath: Within a few months the Prime Minister was ousted in a general election called as a matter of confidence, and the union itself fell apart.
Does all of this sound familiar?
Yes, it was the Referendum of September 1961 as to whether or not Jamaica should remain part of the Federation of the West Indies.