EU Referendum

EU Referendum: Vote Leave � the bullying


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From Huff Post comes an intriguing tale of stresses within the Tory Boy Vote Leave campaign, which has apparently occasioned the defection of a key activist to

This is Richard Murphy, until recently Ground Campaign Director and also the Head of Field Operations and Regional Campaigning. He left Vote Leave after an alleged disagreement over strategy with its Campaign Director Dominic Cummings and digital consultant Andrew Whitehurst.

That Andrew Whitehurst is on board is another indication that one of the main functions of Vote Leave is to provide jobs for Matthew Elliott's associates, Whitehurst being one of the original directors of Mr Elliott's WESS Digital company which he formed to make a financial killing out of running campaigns.

On the other hand, Murphy is not the only one in recent times to cross swords with Dominic Cummings, whose reputation for bullying puts the Westminster Brat Pack to shame. Even senior MPs and media consultants have incurred his wrath recently, over "unauthorised" communications with the media, with Cummings demanding the right to veto any media contacts not personally approved by himself.

This aggressive behaviour from Cummings is seriously disturbing sponsors, which may account for rumours spread by Breitbart that Vote Leave is running seriously short of cash.

Insiders also suggest that the serial missteps by Cummings, including the demonstration by activists at this year's CBI conference, is making sponsors nervous. Some are said to be on the point of jumping ship.

Other insiders point to the track record of Dominic Cummings, who had to be bought out of his contract as strategy chief for the Conservative Party, after he had alienated so many senior workers that they were refusing to work with him. After his spectacular failure to support his own think tank, the New Frontiers Foundation, Cummings's track record is also being questioned.

Particularly, as the "Tory bullying" scandal intensifies, his role as advisor to Gove is being recalled, where he dominated a regime regarded by many as an "us-and-them aggressive, intimidating culture", and perceived by some as "intimidating".

With a similar regime prevailing in Vote Leave, which has already seen this writer walk and triggered the high-profile defection of Richard Murphy, few believe this will be the last. As the pressure intensifies, many expect Cummings to engineer a major internal row and then walk, blaming others for his own failures.

Certainly, with the focus now on bullying within the Tory party and associated campaigns, senior supporters are less inclined to continue turning a blind eye to complaints about Cummings's behaviour. They are being pressed to bring the Vote Leave campaign under greater scrutiny.

Elliott's preference for employing friends and business associates on lucrative consultancy contracts – including in the past Telegraph journalist Dan Hodges – is also reinforcing the exclusive "us and them" culture in Vote Leave. But this time round, donors are more sensitive about how their money is being spent in what is going to be a long and expensive campaign, where there is competition for the lead designation. 

For a some years, though, Elliott has effectively regarded himself as the heir designate to lead the official "leave" campaign. More people are now prepared to question that assumption and, for the first time since Mr Cameron declared his intention to hold a referendum, his expectations of an easy ride to the top are seriously in doubt.