Monday, 27 June 2016
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I stood there with the little pencil in my hand, the ballot paper in front of me. I took a deep breath. Now was the time. This was the moment. Once my vote was cast, there’d be no turning back. It had been a long six weeks of campaigning. Every morning out on the battle bus, ready to face our adoring public who treated us like rock stars, and our angry opponents who held us in lower esteem than they might hold paedophiles or cop killers. It was the same for the other side. They were getting the equal amount of adulation and bile as we were. The whole referendum had raised passions to boiling point.
The pencil felt like a weapon in my hand. A force for good, a force for freedom. With that tiny piece of wood and graphite on a string, I could strike a blow for democracy and sovereignty. As I had been saying to every newspaper, radio interviewer, TV political correspondent and punter on the street for the last six years, we could take our country back. How they had roared on the streets of Carlisle, whooped in the pubs of Essex and cheered in the auditorium of the great debate when I had uttered those four words. My slogan, my catchphrase. Take our country back.
Outside this building were banks of reporters waiting for me to give a sound bite, to tell the world that this was an historic day and a chance for the ordinary British man to sock it to the establishment, to take our country back.
Would we win? The latest polls and bookmakers’ odds suggested not, but every vote counted and if we got enough people out maybe we could upset the odds.
With my pencil poised, I was ready to make history.
I just couldn’t do it. If I voted leave, all hell would be let loose. I’d be betraying my wife, my kids, my companies. I knew it was the wrong thing to do. This whole campaign, my whole political life had been to tap into the anger on the streets to make me famous. I’d never in a million years thought it would come to this. I just wanted to be the political version of the pub landlord. I wanted to make waves, to maybe rock the boat, but there was no way I wanted to capsize the bloody thing.
I looked over my shoulder, with the courage of my new found convictions I drew my cross and thanked Christ for the secret ballot.