Did you catch the Obama show? You can hardly have missed the buildup, even if you didn’t tune in for the killer press conference where the leader of the free world told its largest foreign investor that we’d be banished to the back of the line if we came looking for a post-Brexit trade deal.
The intervention was widely trailed but the strength of it, when it came, caught many by surprise. Reports suggest the President decided to turn his rhetoric up to 11 after being shown Boris Johnson’s article in which the mayor suggested the part-Kenyan President might have an ancestral dislike of the British empire.
However, given that No 10 wouldn’t miss an opportunity to throw Boris under a bus, this account can be taken with a pinch of salt. Whatever lay behind the orchestration of the intervention it was music to the ears of Remain campaigners, and triggered cheers at the offices of Britain Stronger In Europe.
But how did it go down outside the world of political obsessives? At the end of each week, the polling company Populus asks the public to name the news stories that they noticed in the previous seven days. The survey was conducted on a Friday and Obama spoke on Saturday, but given how widely talked about his impending intervention was, it’s interesting to note that only 29 per cent of respondents identified the hype as a story they’d noticed.
Admittedly this was top of the list, beating the Queen’s birthday which had registered with 10 per cent of those polled and the death of Victoria Wood, which was cited by eight per cent. When asked specifically to think of stories from the week that were associated with the referendum campaign, 19 per cent identified the looming visit by the President. A whopping 44 per cent of the public couldn’t recall a single story to do with the EU.
This might cheer up the Brexit camp, who are understood to have had a bit of a bad week, but Obama’s lines will be repeated thousands of times between now and 23 June, adding to the mood music already generated by the infamous Treasury document and various apocalyptic Brexit warnings. These things will sink in, and the Leave campaign’s urgent challenge is to give the public a different ditty to whistle.