In my previous post, I commented on the fact that David Cameron is not in control of the EU “reform” timetable. He is, in fact, the willing puppet of external forces. A new treaty is in the works and Mr Cameron has little option but to follow the lead of the European Commission. While the legacy media prattle on about “renegotiation”, preparations for a new settlement that will further integrate the member governments of the Eurozone and seek to “park” the “British problem” progress largely uncommented upon.
The focus of legacy media attention for the time being is the perceived (and actual) “split” within what a disproportionately large number of newspaper reporters, leader writers and political commentators are calling the “Out” campaign. This misleading designation matters. The proposition on the ballot paper will be “leave” and, according to the Code of Practice issued and enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and “whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”. Lord Justice Leveson’s praise of the legacy media’s “powerful reputation for accuracy” still has the power to elicit hollow laughter, even years after the event.
In many ways, this is akin to the policy of referring to the EU as “Europe”. Controlling language is a means of controlling thought, as George Orwell describes in Politics and The English Language. If the electorate associates leaving the supranational treaty organisation known as the European Union (EU) with “leaving” the geographical continent or broad civilisational dispensation associated with the word “Europe” then the proposition is instantly rendered laughable, silly, kookish. There is no need to actively argue a case because the “framing” privileges one perspective and disprivileges another.
The source of the flare up that has so interested the legacy media appears to be a disagreement within UKIP concerning which of the putative candidates to lead the official “leave” campaign should be more closely affiliated with the party. Both Faragistes and Carswellians say that UKIP should work with “all groups” campaigning for Brexit, but it does not take Brain of Britain to see that the party is fundamentally split. While Party Leader, Nigel Farage, has given support to millionaire donor Arron Bank’s Leave.EU organisation, Douglas Carswell, the party’s only Westminister MP, and Suzanne Evans, Deputy Party Leader, favour the (not yet officially launched) Campaign To Leave, the brain-child of Business for Britain CEO, Matthew Elliott. I have already discussed the shortcomings of the Leave.EU group, so let us now turn our attention to Matthew Elliott and Business for Britain.
The “About Us” section of the Business for Britain website states:
Business for Britain exists to give a voice to the large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see fundamental changes made to the terms of our EU membership.
Got that? “[F]undamental changes… to the terms of [Britain’s] EU membership”.
Under the heading, “Do you agree with us?”—also published in the “About Us” section of the Business for Britain website—the organisation asks (itself) a series of questions. One of these is: “You talk about renegotiation, but isn’t your campaign really about leaving the EU?” To which the organisation responds:
What unites supporters of Business for Britain is an agreement that the status quo in our relationship is not working and that the Government is right to seek a new deal for the EU and the UK’s terms of membership. Instead of pushing the debate to the extreme corners of In vs Out, we should be having a sensible discussion about what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements. Resisting renegotiation and denying people a say will push public sentiment further towards Out and fast-track an EU exit.
Characterising those who advocate that Britain leave the EU as “extreme” and asserting that “sensible discussion” be limited to “what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements” is hardly consistent with the putative aim of leading the “leave” campaign in an EU referendum. By contrast, the Business for Britain website makes repeated references to “negotiation”, “renegotiation” and “fundamental reform” of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Even Matthew Elliott’s introduction to Business for Britain’s report, Change or Go: How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU, is focused on “[setting] out what changes should be sought from renegotiation”.
The options that will appear on the ballot paper are “remain”—based on whatever “reforms” or promises of reform the Prime Minister may or may not secure—or “leave” the EU. Based upon the procedures specified by the Electoral Commission for the Scottish Referendum, which most people anticipate being broadly similar for the EU Referendum, it is doubtful whether the position staked out by Business for Britain and its CEO, Matthew Elliott, would meet the condition that the lead campaign organisation “adequately represent those campaigning for the outcome”. Neither “maybe” nor “wait and see” are an option.
Moreover, Business for Britain’s support for “renegotiation” and “fundamental reform” suggests that the organisation may even support the “new relationship” that Mr Cameron will present to voters prior to the EU referendum vote. The official lead campaign organisation for the “leave” camp switching sides in the midst of the contest would be major embarrassment, to put it mildy.
In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four there is a book that is supposedly written by Emmanuel Goldstein—public enemy number one in Oceania and the target of the “two minute hate”—called, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, which represents the negation of the ideology that legitimises Big Brother and The Party. In the later part of the story, Winston Smith learns from O’Brien, the sadistic torturer who works for The Ministry of Love and ultimately sends Winston to Room 101, that Goldstein’s book is, in fact, a fraud, written by The Party to confuse, distract and entrap would-be revolutionaries.
Now, imagine a “leave” campaign, led by Matthew Elliott and his Campaign To Leave. The organisation’s arguments about reducing “red-tape” and cutting costs are enough to convince a majority of the electorate that Britain should leave the EU. With only months remaining before the vote in October 2017, victory for the “leave” campaign looks assured. Then, unexpectedly, after months of negative headlines and French intransigence,
Pinocchio Cameron returns from the Autumn Council with an offer for “fundamental treaty change” that addresses all of the issues highlighted by the leaders of the “leave” grouping during the campaign. Whether Elliott sides with the government and recommends that the British public vote to “remain” in the EU would be immaterial at that stage. The real damage would have been done.
My question for you and, indeed, for the Electoral Commission: Is the leader of an organisation that characterises those who advocate that Britain leave the EU as “extreme” and who is on the record as saying, “If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”—Matthew Elliott, CEO of Business for Britain—an appropriate person to lead the official “leave” campaign?