Theresa May’s senior special adviser Stephen Parkinson is leaving government to go and work for Vote Leave, the EU referendum Out campaign. Parkinson, who previously worked on the No to AV campaign, will start next month.
The fact that someone who has worked so closely with the Home Secretary is joining the Out campaign will intensify speculation that May herself will soon come out for leaving the EU. But those close to her emphasise that she is waiting to see the result of the renegotiation before making up her mind. However, as I report in the forthcoming issue of the magazine, she still strongly believes that freedom of movement should be part of the renegotiation. At the moment, it is only on the table in the most limited of senses — Cameron told the Commons this week that he didn’t want it to apply to either criminals or benefit shoppers. This indicates that May is unlikely to be pleased with what Cameron comes back with on this front.
If May, the longest serving Home Secretary for more than sixty years, were to back Out, it would be an explosive intervention. It would be someone who has run the immigration system declaring that Britain can only get control of it outside of the European Union. It would put immigration front and centre in the EU debate, and in a non-Ukip way.
Hiring Parkison is a coup for Vote Leave, the Dominic Cummings and Matthew Elliott run Out campaign. He is one of the ablest aides in government and also has experience of referendum campaigns from his time at No to AV. The fact that he is prepared to give up a good job in government to come and work for Out suggests that serious people in Westminster now think that it has a reasonable chance of winning this referendum.