Despite critical claims of Cameron's false electoral sincerity, the rise of UKIP’s ‘people’s army’ served as the primary catalyst in Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum. The party, founded in 1993, and led by the dangerously charismatic Nigel Farage, threatened to haemorrhage support away from the traditional mainstream British establishment. Once derided as the party of ‘fruitcakes’, UKIP suddenly represented an unwelcome challenge to the Tory Party from the political right. In the 2014 European Elections, UKIP became the first non-major party to win an election in the UK in over a century. Cameron’s Conservatives were humiliated, finishing 3rd in a country well accustomed to the traditional two-horse race. Further exacerbating Cameron’s predicament was the emerging threat of players leaving Team Cameron for the insurgent Team Farage. Formally referred to in Westminster jargon as ‘crossing the floor’, Cameron’s fears proved well-founded, when in 2014 two disgruntled Tory MPs defected to UKIP. In this sense, Cameron calculated wisely: had the referendum not been on the offing, the probability is that this number would have been far greater.
More significantly, however, Cameron could not conceive holding onto power without removing UKIP’s trump card of promising an in/out referendum. In this regard, he was wholly misguided: with the Liberal Democrats following the Western European tradition of being punished as the smaller coalition partner, as well as UKIP voters being fearful of a Milliband government propped up by the SNP, the Conservative Party was on course for victory irrespective of the referendum pledge. Therefore, Cameron and his entourage’s motivations for calling the referendum signify a severe information disconnect in their game strategy: the referendum was superfluous to the requirements of ensuring a 2015 victory. For this very reason, Cameron was not obliged to open Farage and Johnson’s Pandora’s box, which for decades had been filled with London buses painted in the colour of alternative facts.