Baroness Warsi hasn’t always been one to help out the Prime Minister when he’s in a spot of bother. But her high-profile defection from the Brexit camp to Remain will certainly have put a smile on David Cameron’s face this morning. It’s not so much that Warsi was an essential part of Vote Leave’s plans; the campaign have been keen to downplay Warsi’s importance today, saying in a tweet that ‘they weren’t aware she was ever part of the Vote Leave campaign’. Michael Fabricant, a leading Brexiteer has also questioned whether Warsi was ever involved in the first place, asking ‘Was she ever in Out?’
Whilst it’s true her involvement has been minimal, the words she used to justify her decision are still likely to hurt the ‘Leave’ campaign. Warsi said her decision was brought about by the ‘hate and xenohobia’ she said that some on the ‘Leave’ side were espousing. In particular, she highlighted Nigel Farage’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster which showed refugees queuing at a border. She said:
‘That ‘breaking point’ poster really was – for me – the breaking point to say: ‘I can’t go on supporting this’. Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me that’s a step too far’.
Warsi went on to say, in her statement to the Times, that the Leave campaign were ‘not the kind of people I’d get on a night bus with’. On the Today programme she gave the impression that her decision came about over the weekend after hearing Farage defending his ‘indefensible’ poster. Warsi also said she backed Brexit since before ‘Vote Leave’ was launched, pointing to her outlining the case for Brexit last summer. She clearly isn’t afraid of the limelight. But whilst the ‘Leave’ campaign might have a point in downplaying Warsi’s significance, they can’t pretend her words today won’t do damage. Many will have felt unhappy at seeing Ukip’s poster. And although some on the ‘Leave’ campaign, including Michael Gove have spoken out about it, it’s difficult to ignore that Warsi will speak for quite a few people when she says such rhetoric made her call into question being on the same side.