I mentioned in my previous post that I am short of time for blogging at the moment, but the launch of a new EU referendum campaign group probably demands a brief comment. The first thing that comes to mind is…
Of a piece with the inadvisable choice of a black background, the general aesthetic of the ‘Vote Leave‘ website leaves a lot to be desired. Whereas one report took issue with the site template, I have no problem with it. Uninspired, perhaps, but a degree of familiarity is probably a good thing in the context of a campaign website that should be accessible to everybody.
It is in terms of accessibility that the site starts to fall down. The mostly grey on white text—and spidery choice of font—makes reading and comprehension more difficult than necessary, while the sections that feature white text on a picture background are almost unreadable. I have sufficiently good eyesight and technological awareness—you can increase the size of the font by pressing ‘Ctrl’ and then ‘+’ at the same time—to overcome these problems, but the old and the visually impaired will face needless struggle. This is web design 101 and should have been corrected prior to launch.
There are also copywriting errors that a thorough proof-read should have caught. The “jobs” section contains references to the “Out Campaign” and the “No/Out Campaign”.
There are also sentence fragments in the “privacy” section that should have been picked up.
It gives me no pleasure to say that the more I look at this wretched thing and the more I read the actual content, the worse it appears. ‘Vote Leave’ is almost a case study in how not to build a website or effectively communicate a clear and coherent message. Under the heading, ‘Why Should We Vote To Leave?’, the first sentence reads: “Technological and economic forces are changing the world fast”. Not only does this not directly address the supposed topic under discussion, but the sentence structure means that the meaning is unclear. I shall spare you the gory details, but, suffice it to say, copywriting tends to be extremely formulaic. The above, which I hope I have established is not a suitable topic sentence (but leaving that to one side), should say, “The world is changing fast. Technological and economic forces…” See the difference?
This may sound nitpicky—indeed, it is, that’s the point—but the reaction of bosses who spot even an unnecessary space between the words on a particular page is generally pretty ferocious. This is because they are well aware that a lack of care and attention to the finer details on your website creates the impression that your business is sloppy and unprofessional. The first interaction that most people have with a particular organisation nowadays tends to be through a public-facing website. It is important to the owners and executives that all of the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed.
What is a couple of billion among friends?
Accepting that all of the above could be the mistakes of haste—and could (née should) be corrected very quickly—the bigger problem is the decision to focus so much energy and attention on peripheral issues. Rather than leading on the core argument regarding Britain’s future relationship with the EU—should the British people lend the authority to govern to the EU’s supranational bureaucracy or Britain’s national democracy(?)— the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign leads on the issue of cost. I have written before about what I regard as the divided and unholy trinity of “eurosceptic” debate; issues that will need careful handling during the referendum campaign.
To reiterate, cost is not a suitable lead issue. Of course, I recognise that costs must be discussed and assurances provided, but economic assertions are contingent and comparatively easy to undermine. Merely casting uncertainty and doubt over the numbers will serve this purpose.
By way of clarification, Britain pays around £20 billion into the EU budget every year and receives back around £10 billion every year, which is then “match funded” by the British government. These are extremely rough figures, but what is a couple of billion among friends?… and that is the real point. The United Kingdom government’s budget deficit is around £100 billion a year. In the context of a trillion pound economy, the cost of Britain’s EU budget contributions are not all that significant.
Furthermore, arguing about cost very quickly descends into a bun-fight over whose figures are more reliable and where these hypothetical savings should be spent. We cannot beat the Tory Party, the Prime Minister and the British government if we fight the referendum contest on the terms that they set. Arguments about costs are the enemy’s home turf; we need to drag the debate into areas where we feel comfortable and where David Cameron is comparatively weak.
As far as serious Brexiteers are concerned, we could not care less if the EU only cost the country £9.99 a year. The EU referendum is about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and how and by whom the country should be governed.
We must demand better
Finally, the calls among some “eurosceptics”—a designation that I repudiate—for “those who are not united and do not agree” to come together, are misplaced. If we do not criticise and critique our own side, sometimes even visciously, we will not be in a position to convince others of the rightness of our arguments when battle is truly joined. The acceptance of those who evince and have articulated no committment to our cause is also tactically and strategically inept.
These are not trivial issues for the launch of what one presumes is intended to be a “hub” for campaigners and seekers of information about the EU referendum.
Indeed, following hot on the heels of the blokey, Arthur Daley, he’s a’right, knees-up Mother Brown, end of the pier, Leave.EU effort, ‘Vote Leave’ was supposed to mark the entry of the slick London professionals. But, on first impression—and one would expect these issues to have been addressed prior to the launch—to call this an amateur effort is an insult to the many volunteers who are already expending time and effort to support and promote a cause in which they believe.
No. This site is far worse than amateur. It carries the imprimatur of people who simply do not care, which, given that (without exaggeration) the EU referendum is about the future of our nation and Britain’s place in the world, is grounds enough to place a very large question mark over whether the ‘Vote Leave’ organisation and the people behind it are suitable candidates to lead the official “leave” campaign.
UPDATE: I see that Vote Leave has now changed the background of ‘The Campaign’ page from black to white. Good for them. They have still not done anything to correct the appalling copywriting (12/10/2015).