Do politicians’ visits make any difference to the way we vote? asks Paul Geater

Boris Johnson is confronted by Remain supporters at the Waterfront in Ipswich.

Boris Johnson is confronted by Remain supporters at the Waterfront in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

This week has really seen the referendum campaign come to life in Ipswich with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove coming on Tuesday and yesterday’s visit by Hilary Benn, writes political reporter Paul Geater.

But I do wonder whether there was any great point, especially to Tuesday’s visit – which I understand didn’t go down too well with the national Vote Leave organisers!

I can see the reason why Labour sent Mr Benn to town yesterday – the party has found it difficult to get its voice heard among the blue-on-blue attacks within the Tory Party and I can see they want to ensure their voters get out on June 23.

However the visit by Mr Johnson and Mr Gove was a bit chaotic to say the least and it had many of us asking what was the point?

The obvious explanation was that it gave them the chance to talk about problems throwing foreign criminals out of the country after Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore declared himself in favour of leaving the EU.

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However, coming to an office next to UCS – where many students and staff are known to be in favour of remaining in the EU – should have set a few alarm bells ringing.

When UCS provost Richard Lister, who is well-known for wanting to stay in the EU, joined the Remain supporters waving placards it was inevitable that education was going to hijack the visit.

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You were never going to get many “undecided” voters wandering about the Waterfront at 10am on a Tuesday morning, no matter how good the weather was, so the idea of a “walkabout” always seemed pretty pointless.

So what we were left with was a group of well-behaved Remain campaigners making a bit of noise and Vote Leave supporters rushing to the building – and lending placards for the advisers with the MPs to wave about and make it look as if there was more support for their men. All very chaotic.

My suspicion is that the genuinely undecided voters (and I’m not sure there are as many of them as the polls would suggest) just aren’t listening to politicians any more.

They might just listen to experts like money guru Martyn Lewis, Wetherspoons manager Tim Martin, or a university leader like Mr Lister.

But I suspect the politicians are now left only preaching to their own supporters.

As for Messrs Johnson and Gove, I found them amenable and happy to talk – although when it came to the questions from the Remainers on university their answers were not exactly clear.

There clearly are real fears about a future outside the EU from the academic world, and a response: “Don’t worry, it will all come out all right in the end” doesn’t address the issues that are troubling students, lecturers and administrators at universities across the country.

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