This election has been described as a “once in a lifetime” choice. It’s a term that’s been slightly worn out by overuse, having previously been applied to a number of general elections that amounted to little more than business as usual. Yet Brexit is an extraordinary event, and this has been an extraordinary campaign. Not the least of its surprises was to see a former Conservative premier come as close as he dares to urging people to vote for anyone other than his old party. John Major’s comments confirm the extent to which the Tories have been captured by extremists.

Though mindful of the party’s rules – if Ken Clarke isn’t above them, nor is Major – Sir John’s meaning is pretty clear nonetheless. Speaking to a roomful of Final Say activists via video link, Major argued that too much is stake at this election to vote along tribal lines: “Vote,” he exhorted the audience, “for the candidate who you believe will best represent your own views and aspirations in parliament.” He then appealed to the overwhelmingly pro-EU youth of the nation, many of whom were not even born when he was in No 10: “Your vote is absolutely crucial – for you have the longest lease on our country’s future, and our place in the wider world.”

Sir John was joined by another old comrade from the 1990s, Michael Heseltine; a man who, like Mr Clarke, was kicked out of the Conservative Party he joined in 1955, and which he served with such distinction. Major and Heseltine were, in turn, supported by Tony Blair, who has also made no secret of his view that the voters should put country before party. All have made a cogent case for a second, confirmatory referendum on Brexit, and specifically on what at the moment passes for the prime minister’s “Brexit deal”. Whether these statesmen make much difference to the polling remains to be seen – but they certainly deserve to do so.

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