EU Referendum

EU Referendum: positives and negatives


Not everything is what it seems. While we are focusing to certain extent on the negative aspects of this campaign, behind the scenes we are planning a big push for 23 April with a meeting in London at the Royal Overseas League, starting at 2pm and lasting until 6pm. 

Booking is not necessary, but if anyone wants to reserve a seat, drop me a line on the contact button and we'll keep a place for you. We'll be charging £15 at the door - which also covers coffee at the start and finish - and donations will welcome, as always.

Christopher Booker has agreed to chair the meeting and the idea is to update and improve on the Dawlish event, styling it closer to the TED talks format, in front of a live audience. There will be three cameras in operation, so you will have plenty of opportunity to make your points on film.

The longer-term output will be a video for posting on YouTube, but we also plan to produce mini-clips of a number of interviews with supporters, and cut-outs from the question and answer sessions. We should, therefore, we able to post videos on many of the remaining days of the campaign, providing new material for fuel the debate, when it really matters.

Interestingly, at the Dawlish meeting, back in September 2014, we predicted that the opposition would be majoring on the idea that leaving the EU would be a "leap in the dark". Here we are now, with the Prime Minister pushing precisely that as a slogan and the "Stronger In" campaign sending out leaflets with that emblazoned on the front.

Countering this meme will be our positive contribution to the campaign, funded largely by the generous contributions of our readers, which are still coming in via the direct route. Nonetheless, we still need additional funds to get the message out, and to support our blogging effort.

Our current plans take account of the Scottish experience where much of the campaigning took place on the internet. The battle was largely out of sight of the legacy media – which made the usual mistake of believing that it was dominating the debate.

More so, we believe, this campaign is being dominated by internet exchanges, where there is real discussion, as opposed to the sterile, tedious fare that the media sees fit to present us with.

However, while less attractive, the negative side of campaigning is just as important. Sadly though, much of that involves attempts at resisting the media determination to turn the referendum into the "Dave and Boris Show", thereby creating a grotesque beauty pageant which is robbing the contest of its meaning.

Here, Tony E at Brexit Door has some interesting observations to make, illustrating how completely the Labour Party seems to have withdrawn from the battle. Looking at LabourList, the biggest independent Labour blog, there is no sense that we are engaged in the most important political contest of the century. There is no mention whatsoever of the EU referendum.

If one imagines a scenario where Labour's Mr Corbyn had positioned his party firmly on one side or the other of the debate, it would have had a profound effect in the contest, in making it a multi-party battle.

As it stands, with Labour having almost completely vacated the field and the LibDems having dropped below the horizon, this has left the divided Conservatives as the main protagonists.

That has paved the way for the legacy media to revert to its favourite sport – reporting Tory "splits". It was thus inevitable that the contest would be turned into a battle between the two wings of the Tories, one led by David Cameron and the other by Alexander (aka Boris) Johnson, the serial liar.

Another option open to the media would have been to cast the battle as a David and Goliath struggle, as between the real David (as in Cameron) cast as the Goliath, and Nigel Farage as the plucky challenger, determined to bring freedom to the people.

However, Farage ruled himself out when he chose to make immigration his main (and only) pitch. There was no way that the media was going to play his game and make the referendum a single issue campaign.

In any event, the opportunity to pursue the "Dave and Boris" soap opera was more than the media could resist. Perforce, this has relegated Nigel and his Ukip supporters to the second division, as part of the sparsely-reported "GO" movement, Arron Banks's disappearing and the barely visible Vote Leave.

Lacking any clear strategic purpose or anything positive to offer, these groups have resorted to bickering with their counterparts the "remain" campaign. So dire has this become that it has been described as a "wretched, witless race to the paranoid bottom".

Extraneous matters, such as the fate of the NHS, have been brought into the fray, distracting voters from the key issues, while the "he says this, he says that" narrative is calculated to drive people away in their droves.

This was precisely what we wanted to avoid. There is now the very real risk that, as the squabbling intensifies, the voting public will decide that the only sensible response is "a plague on both your houses". Unable to sort the wheat from the chaff, and deluged in detail, they will vote for personalities, without reference to the issues.

The way we wanted to frame the contest was as between the people and the establishment, the latter represented by "Dodgy Dave" and his equally dodgy deal. Now it has been hijacked by the politicians, and the intervention of Mr Johnson has taken the "dodge deal" off the agenda.

The only way we can see to reinstate it is to take "Boris" out of the picture – a necessary precaution in any event. His unpredictability, incompetence and his propensity to lie makes him an extremely unreliable ally who could so easily do more harm than good, as is already proving to be the case.

In my view, the Parris attack – whatever its motivation – is a harbinger, and anyone who is as vulnerable as Mr Johnson is not someone we can allow to head up out campaign. This is a man who, in every facet of his professional and private life is a sustained and prolific liar.

The irony of this is that our strongest suit in attacking the Prime Minister is that he too is a liar – in particular over his pretend treaty. Yet an attack on these grounds by an inveterate liar such as Mr Johnson is not going to get very far. We thus have a potential campaign leader who cannot afford to deploy our most potent weapon.

This means that the first part of our DOR strategy goes wanting. And if Johnson cannot debunk Dave's dodgy deal, neither can he nor any of the other "leavers" come up with a suitable alternative offer, or any credible reassurance that such an offer is achievable.

That put The Leave Alliance in exactly the position we expected to be in when we discussed the prospect of forming a reserve. We are the only group that is not compromised, and which has a coherent strategy.

We aim to start putting that into effect on 23 April, balancing positive and negative aspects of campaigning to the best advantage, with the emphasis increasingly turning to the positive. Even if it is not enough, we intend to go down fighting – ready for the next round if it proves necessary.