We can be sure of just one thing about the voting intentions of Cabinet members on June 23rd. The six ( now 5 after resignation) brave enough to declare for Brexit will vote for it. It is not easy for a serving Cabinet Minister to disagree so fundamentally with the Prime Minister, so if they do so they will see it through.
But can Mr Cameron rely on the votes of all the other 16 in the privacy of the polling booth? There are some very unlikely converts to the joys of the EU amongst the Cabinet. They will live through some very uncomfortable interviews, problems with explaining their positions to their Conservative Associations and no doubt a good few constituent emails and letters. In the end their own inner beliefs may come through in what after all is a secret ballot.
Those who come out and speak about the topic are often quick to criticise aspects of the present EU. None of them want us to join its two central features, the common frontiers and the single currency. It’s as if we had joined a football club, only to state we have no intention of either playing or watching any football, and then demanding a lower subscription to the club because we don’t join in its main purposes.
Listening to the Prime Minister himself who will vote to stay in I am struck by how much of what he says about the EU is negative. He stresses all the things we are out of thanks to past opt outs, or things he wants us to be out of but probably are not owing to the weak deal. The Remain side wants to win based on describing unappealing versions of Out which we do not have to choose, whilst stressing Eurosceptic negatives on the organisation they are in practice recommending to us!
So who is the genuine EU enthusiast in the Cabinet? The curious thing is there isn’t one. Mrs May is as close as you get to someone who can see some good in the organisation and wants to expand its power a bit. You need to go to the next layer down to find a believer like Anna Soubry. Never has a Cabinet risked so much to argue such an unpopular case when so few of them believe in it.
The face of the EU is the face that has launched a thousand whips. Most of those whips have been as unpalatable as the EU’s face is unattractive to many Conservative MPs.