Vote Leave has come under increasing pressure over recent days, with Conservative MP, Steve Baker, alluding to “genuine disagreements about strategy and tactics” between Vote Leave and the rest of the Brexit community.
While the legacy media is happy to present the disagreements as a biff-bam personality clash between Banks, Wigmore, Cummings and Elliott, the real story concerns a fundamental point of principle.
There is a cosy consensus among politicians and the press which presumes that Vote Leave is somehow entitled to lead designation as the official “leave” campaign. Therefore, what is in fact a genuine dispute is only ever described euphemistically as “bickering” or “in-fighting”. To talk or write about the reason for the ill-will between Vote Leave and everybody else campaigning for Brexit would unmask Vote Leave as the charlatans that they are. The deeply serious nature of the opposition to Vote Leave is also obscured by a lot of childish rubbish about Monty Python and “splitters”.
In response, I can only ask of our legacy media, “When are you going to grow up and learn some manners?” Britain’s membership of the European Union is a serious matter—possibly one of the most serious and undoubtedly one of the most impactful political decisions that any of us will make in our lifetimes. That fact alone demands that people have the opportunity to participate in a proper debate.
A Curious Reversal
Turning to matters of substance, in an attempt to reverse its position with respect to holding a second referendum, on Friday 5th January Vote Leave published a blog post titled, “Vote Leave’s position on the second referendum”. This was the first piece of Vote Leave literature to state without equivocation that “we [Vote Leave] want Britain to leave the EU”. Presumably, this is an attempt to slip the noose that is being lowered over Vote Leave’s head by dint of its untenable position regarding what “leave” means.
Careful reading reveals that previous Vote Leave literature encourages people to Vote Leave or #VoteLeave or “vote to leave” but never “to leave the EU”, with Vote Leave director, Daniel Hannan, even going so far as to say that a “vote to leave” could be used as a means to secure “proper concessions” and “associate membership” in a two-tier EU.
Obviously, any form of associate MEMBERSHIP would mean Britain remaining in the EU and therefore still subject to all the Directives, Regulations and Decisions of the European Commission, as well as subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It is impossible for Vote Leave to pass the statutory test to “adequately represent those campaigning for the [‘leave’] outcome” while pursuing such a policy.
Hence, the reversal.
Curiously, this vitally important policy change—provided you believe anything that emerges from a campaign that has equivocated on this fundamental issue for so long—was not publicised on either the @Vote_Leave or the @Vote_LeaveMedia Twitter accounts. The first time the post was referenced on any Vote Leave associated social media was when Head of Media for Vote Leave, Robert Oxley, and Vote Leave supporting UKIP Deputy Chair, Suzanne Evans, posted a link to it on their personal Twitter accounts.
Odder still is the fact that the post in question is dated 29th January 2016, one week prior to the publication date. Google bears out this clumsy attempt to pre-date the piece.
Also of note is the number of Facebook “likes” that the post has received. As I write, the post before, “Key points on David Cameron’s omnishambles deal”, has 2 likes. The post in question, clarifying Vote Leave’s position regarding two referendums and the “confusing” press coverage, has an incredible 602 likes. Yet the posts that follow, which were published prior to 5th February, have 19, 12, 11 and 0 likes.
There is no record of this post on Vote Leave’s social media accounts prior to 5th February, yet the date it carries is 29th January, one week prior. Are Vote Leave trying to mislead people about when their two referendums position changed? I think we should be told.
Finally, the fact that Vote Leave CEO, Matthew Elliott, even feels the need to clarify that Vote Leave “want[s] Britain to leave the EU—no ifs no buts” tells you something very important about how successful his campaign has been in reaching out to people beyond a tiny claque of media sycophants. The Vote Leave campaign has so far promoted a “reformist” agenda, cogently detailed by fellow Brexit blogger White Wednesday, as a means to keep The Conservative Party together on the issue of “Europe”.
What kind of a “leave” campaign needs to issue a statement saying that “we want Britain to leave the EU”? That is the one thing you would never expect a “leave” campaign to need to clarify because it should be an unmistakable part of its literature and an essential feature of its campaign. In the case of Vote Leave, it is not.