I confess to a sense of bafflement by all these claims by the leave camp that Cameron has tried to “rig” the EU referendum.
Cameron had a choice whether to propose that 16 year olds could vote. This idea horrified the leavers, because all polls suggest that young people, if they vote, will vote to remain. Cameron gave way to their protests, despite the evidence of the Scottish referendum that this helped engage a generation in politics.
Cameron had a choice – though it probably seemed a theoretical one rather than a real one – to insist on collective cabinet responsibility, and invite the leavers to, well, leave. Even the remote possibility of this brought howls of protest from the leavers, and so appeared to render the choice to confer respectability on ministers who wanted out an inevitable one. It’s hard to see Tory turmoil and division would have been any less had he gone the other way, but now he has to live with the fact that lower tier ministers like Patel and Raab (whose occupation of office seems mainly to illustrate the shallowness of the talent pool) seem happily to abuse him, and any sense of cabinet collegiality.
Cameron had a choice to propose that as well as British citizens (except those who haven’t lived here for 15 years or more) those of other nationalities who live, work and pay taxes here, should have a right to vote. He might, if he remembered his political history, have heard of the slogan “no taxation without representation”. Sure this would increase those who want Britain to remain in the EU, the anti-EU brigade pressured him to the point where this was never really raised for debate.
Three big choices, all of which are likely to influence the referendum result, probably quite significantly. In each case, Cameron gave the ground to a leave campaign supported by big battalions at the Mail, Express, Telegraph, and Sun.
So yes, there are reasons to suspect that some rigging of this referendum went on in the way it was set up. And that Cameron’s main action was to let the leavers have their way in the hope of maintaining some semblance of party unity. It would be very strange if he didn’t now regret that optimistic pusillanimity in the face of his opponents’ vehement rhetoric laced as it is with personal bile.
The evidence, then, suggests that any rigging that was done was done in favour of those who want to leave. Not that evidence figures largely in the rhetoric of VoteLeave. But it is still there for those who want a measure of fact with their politics.