Vote Leave and the Leave.EU/GO nexus are apparently determined to lose the EU referendum for the “leave” side.
Several months ago I wrote a piece about Leave.EU firing practically every “footgun” on the eurosceptic range. But Vote Leave and GO are no better.
For those who do not know, a footgun is something that you use to shoot yourself in the foot. The repeated assertion that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels, for instance, is a footgun. In spite of numerous people—allies and adversaries—pointing out that the figure is wrong, Vote Leave representatives and social media accounts continue to repeat that number ad nauseum. This absense of care and attention can only damage the credibility of the “leave” campaign, so why does Vote Leave insist upon promoting easily verifiable falsehoods?
A more nuanced example is the Vote Leave, Save Our NHS slogan, which, for the longest time I simply didn’t understand. What does a new relationship with our continental neighbours, working together as partners rather than accepting our subordination to a supranational bureaucracy, have to do with Britain’s national health service?
More often than not, journalists who use the term “dog whistle” in a political context are referring to something obvious. An effective dog whistle, however, is pitched at a frequency that only certain audiences can hear.
That Vote Leave slogan may be the first time the term has been applied appropriately, at least in my case, for it turns out that “Save Our NHS” is not a reference to Vote Leave’s love of socialist-style central planning but to mass immigration, which rather puts the lie to the prissy, self-important Tory whinging about the continuity UKIP campaign of Leave.EU/GO. No marks all round.
I could go on, but I do not wish to test people’s patience with an overabundance of examples, so, finally, we return to the Leave.EU campaign, which recently put out a video saying, “The remain camp cannot tell us how much worse things will get if we stay in the EU”. I would like to think that this video will be the nadir of that misdirected and wasteful campaign, but I fear that it will not be.
The attack might have had some purchase were the “leave” camp united behind a comprehensive Brexit plan that provides credible answers to serious questions about the risks associated with leaving the EU. Unfortunately, Vote Leave and Leave.EU have both rejected the idea of using the Flexcit plan as a campaign manual and a means for providing people and government with a post Brexit vision.
Shorn of a credible intellectual base, Leave.EU has resorted to copying ideas from the Remain campaign, which produced an earlier video saying that the high-noise “leavers” do not know what “Out” looks like; the irony being that Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE), Vote Leave, Leave.EU and GO are all well aware of the Flexcit plan and The Leave Alliance, but, like Voldermort, none dare speak its name.
Perhaps the greatest irony of all, however, is that serious people among the “British establishment” are reading Flexcit. Want that the big “leave” groups were so practical and pragmatic.
If we are going to win this, we cannot rely on the substandard material of the big campaign groups. We’re going to have to do it for ourselves, which is what I always expected, so let’s get on with the job.