Thursday, 12 March 2015

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory


There's no question that an "out" campaign in any referendum faces a significant challenge when it is against a very powerful EU movement which has the means and money to outgun us. There is also no doubt that unfair tactics will be used in abundance. In addition we mustn't forget that the "in" campaign in terms of argument and narrative only has to draw (to maintain the status quo) while the "out" campaign has to make the case for winning.

In many ways therefore we are disadvantaged - we are fighting against formidable odds yet as I have noted previously we do have advantages on our side. However with a referendum it's actually our own side, perhaps surprisingly, which is more likely to contribute to our potential defeat.

Earlier this week I had a very fine lunch with passionate anti-EU campaigners White Wednesday and Jason Kent - who is a local Oxfordshire UKIP member and general election agent. Among the many issues discussed there was one which expressed a sense of frustration that the "out" side is less than unified in coming together to adopt a winning strategy to leave. It's a frustration I fully share.

An intriguing problem is that the "out" side has long consisted of strong-willed individuals. But while the individuality and diversity of the "out" camp in many ways should be celebrated - a trait which is the antithesis of the borg-like EU - it's that very trait which often means we are usually nothing more than an 'unorganised rabble' unable to unify behind a coherent positive message or campaign; each with their own egos, own agendas and petty squabbles. Thus when we face a very formidable enemy such diversity will count against us.

The very informative 1975 referendum book by Butler and Kitzinger documents a little nugget which neatly and vividly illustrates this 'herding cats' problem back in 1975:
The main elements in the National Referendum Campaign (the anti-marketeers) were the Common Market Safeguards Campaign and Get Britain Out (GBO)...

There was considerable hostility between these two bodies; following the failure of either the Anti-Common Market League or Safeguards to fulfill an alleged promise to contribute to the cost of a bookstall at Blackpool for the Conservative Conference in 1973.
[GBO's] Christopher Frere-Smith and Richard Body had withdrawn from Safeguards...and Ron Leighton was recruited as full-time Director bringing with him all his Safeguards experience and contacts...
The 1975 referendum campaign could claim to have excuses for such failings though; they had no experience to draw upon and they had little time to prepare. In contrast we have no such excuses yet in many ways we seem determined to repeat many of the same mistakes that were made in 1975.

The crucial aspect of any campaign is to appeal to the waverers - the 'soft middle' - which is mostly decidedly undecided. Thus any "out" campaign which tries to appeal to the likes of Nick Clegg is a waste of time as indeed it would be to the readers of this blog and others. A situation we could consider was aptly summed up by the actress Julia Roberts who played a prostitute in the film Pretty Woman:
I appreciate the whole seduction thing you've got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I'm a sure thing.
Yet we get the sense that the eurosceptic movement in general cannot move outside a comfort zone - failing to try to appeal to those who are not a 'sure thing'. Instead they continually try to seduce those who have already made up their minds.

And this is where Flexcit comes in; by removing the uncertainty of exit, by negating the status quo effect and by circumventing big business self-interest who believe that the EU and the Single Market are the same thing we have a genuine chance of appealing to the soft important middle and winning a referendum.

But sadly we still see that the diversity of the eurosceptic movement means that many arguments have not changed in many years - it is a reflection of the lack of ability to move on; in stark contrast to the EU which has done so with subsequent treaties. Lisbon being the obvious latest one.

Thus it leaves us with old tired canards such as how many laws are made by the EU. This has been an obsession within the eurosceptic movement for as long as it has been about. Does it really matter if 64.6% of laws are made in the EU? And if so is that better than 64.5% or 55.8%. Is 9.8% acceptable? More importantly does it appeal to the public. Since the banking collapse in 2008 and the likes of Starbucks aggressively avoiding tax, the public mood could be said to be in favour of more regulation.

All a 'Westminster village' type campaign to try to determine the percentage of EU laws amounts to, quite bluntly, is a penis measuring competition within the eurosceptic movement as to who can come up with the most 'accurate' figure. Naturally this then leads to arguments within the movement over the exact figure inhibiting us from turning our fire onto the opposition. No wonder that Europhile campaigners are willing to engage in such a discussion; it helps divide us.

Yet not only does an uncoordinated rabble make for a incoherent message but its inherent weakness means it essentially vacates the territory leaving it vulnerable to be infiltrated by someone else with less than honest intentions.

When a referendum campaign starts, there has to be an official bid to the Electoral Commission to represent the "out" campaign where a very substantial amount of funding will be available. We saw the process of this with Scotland; Better Together whose official Campaign Director was Blair McDougall and Yes Scotland whose chief executive was Blair Jenkins.

It's here the weakness of the diversity of the "out" campaign can be exploited by the pro-EU establishment which can install and control the opposition general. Already we can see indications of this happening with Business for Britain and in particular Matthew Elliott.

BfB gives a "voice" to Roger Bootle who stitched up the IEA prize, and a platform to other supporters such as Alan Halsall, Neville Baxter and Robert Hiscox to name but three who have supported the recently publicly outed pro-EU think tank Open Europe.

More than a few in the eurosceptic movement are unimpressed with Elliott's ill-disguised ambitions to further his own career, as a potential MP, on the back of a referendum campaign, nor are they impressed with his sycophantic nature towards Tory politicians...obviously with his career in mind.

With Cameron exerting undue influence over Elliott, his abysmal record with NOtoAV where he had to be bailed out by senior members of the Tory party such was the nature of the poor campaign, nothing should worry the eurosceptics more than for Elliott to win the bid for the official "out".

By 'deliberately' losing the referendum he can be assured of Tory gratitude with rewards to match. If Elliott takes control in an EU referendum we would have lost before we started.

Thus elements of the eurosceptic movement has to grow up, accept the Boolean nature of a referendum and start preparing for a dirty fight if we are to win.

4 comments:

  1. It's interesting the drift your piece here gravitates to the actual eventual leadership figure an 'Out' campaign might coalesce around (and I agree that Elliott is by no means a remotely adequate choice). I've been thinking of this lately and setting a putative leadership post would now be of value to emplace a vehicle for the Campaign proper. It's possible that the Campaign in its stages as we see now would immeasurably benefit from being able to gather around such a leadership figure so perhaps we might give proper and comprehensive thought at this point to specifically who might lead the campaign.

    There is no obvious 'Jesus Candidate'. Someone who is perfect in history, deed and thought. There's no point looking for one, but by the same token, such imperfections in any candidate must not be seen is instantaneous disqualifiers. Most of the Websites to which you, TBF, contribute most wholly recognise the Political nature of the EU project and in parallel terms its lack of political accountability. So I'm going to suggest that we might agree a leadership candidate must be a UK Parliamentary figure who can recognise the importance of Parliamentary accountability. (Such a candidate would be able to make a great deal of a non-accountable figure in the debate as it proceeded).

    Such a figure ought to have had at least a reasonable representation in Parliament and would need to be likely to be an MP subsequent to the next General Election and for the following five years.

    So. Here goes. I'm going to suggest Kate Hoey.

    No automatic, knee-jerk objections please. I don't doubt she's not perfect, but any suggestions would need to identify a superior candidate.

    Representing a London constituency. She can't be accused of ignorance on the importance of the Capital. She has a previous successful discipline to which she was famously committed. 'Who is Kate Hoey?' many of the UK Population might reasonably ask. Rather fewer of the electorate will have the remotest idea who Mr. Elliott is.

    No friend of Blair nor the Blairite pro-EU\Single Currency era, and thereby unstained by the most egregious faults of the Blair\Brown axis. Nobody on planet earth will be able to get away with attempting to portray her as a xenophobe or racist, and naturally her personal origins from Northern Ireland precludes any accusations against her as her having no concept of the wider consideration of the needs of the whole United Kingdom.

    However, as a woman, she talks (in the Westminster Bubbleworld PC fashionable theory) to the female vote in a way that neither Roland Rudd nor Elliott himself will ever be able to. This is important since the EU debate has largely been one adopted by male figures. Most of the contributors to these websites are by males, and are run by males. I'd say on observation fewer than 20% of contributions are from the fairer sex. A female representation in female terms is almost a revolutionary concept in that - she will bring to the debate a presence that has not been a feature thus far. Another advantage being that normally Conservative-leaning women who despise the relentless sanctimonious arrogance of the feministas - your Toynbees, Greers and Harmans - will be far more inclined to give pause for thought from somebody of a very different public persona and nature.

    In a stalemate of the mechanics of the situation we find ourselves in right now, if Hoey might at least give proper attention to aspects of the Flexcit project she might be willing to consider deeper engagement. We need cross-party support but putting a strong-willed woman with a little public steel and drive in the leadership role could well be an invaluable step.

    As I say, it would be fairly easy, if not bone-idle to raise immediate objections. If there are objections, then by all means we can find someone in Parliament ('In Parliament') who is a better choice.

    Even if I do say so myself, I think she sets a high bar for qualification.

    Douglas Carter.

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    1. No Douglas Russel Brand

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  2. One really does wonder if we're ever going to make it out.

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  3. Anonymous, above, listed his criteria for selection of the NO/OUT figurehead. As I read this I thought of John Redwood, silly me. What an inspired idea, Mr or Ms Anonymous, Kate Hoey would be perfect. Now I must away to William Hill to check odds on her doing a kellycook before any vote.

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