The Conventional Campaign

The news that the Referendum Planning Group—comprised of, The Bruges Group, Futurus, Campaign for an Independent Britain and The Harrogate Agenda—will be submitting a proposal to the Electoral Commission to act as the official “leave” campaign organisation was followed by Robert Oulds’ overview of the “conventional structure” that the group plans to establish to fight the enemy on that particular front.

The structure, he explained, will be comprised of a strategy board, which will advise a CEO, who will in turn co-ordinate operations with his or her various departmental heads. Oulds also foresees an important role for “establishment” figures, who will lend the group their “prestige” and help to promote the group in the establishment press and broadcast media. The Bruges Group’s longstanding connection to various senior “eurosceptic” figures may well prove invaluable in that regard.

Of most interest to me was Oulds’ overview of the “media strategy”, which he separated out into four distinct categories: niche media, the national press, regional news and the broadcasters. However, important as these activities may be, Oulds also emphasised the fact that this is “not where the main battle will be won”. “Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising”, he asserted. Trusted individuals making personal connections and communicating with the people around them is invariably the most effective means of overcoming the invidious “narratives” that the legacy media will present.

As a consequence, Oulds believes that the most important part of this conventional structure will be the local and regional campaign representatives, working in their local communities, participating in all of the traditional campaign activities associated with democratic plebiscites over preceding decades—knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, hosting coffee mornings, making telephone calls and organising, as well as participating in town hall debates. These are the people who will take the initiative in communicating the message that Cameron’s offer of a “two-tier Europe”—relegating Britain to “second-class country” status—is “the worst of both worlds”.

At the apotheosis of the conventional structure, Oulds explained, is the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) crowd. This is “the most important part of the campaign”; everything discussed so far is really geared towards getting people to the polling stations (most likely in late 2017) so that they can place a cross next to the “leave” proposition on the ballot paper. “Everything”, Oulds advised, “builds towards the GOTV operation”. Plans for what the RPG refer to as their “reserve structure” will be the subject of the next post.

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