Sunday, 4 October 2015
I've wasted some of the morning bickering on Twitter with europhiles. What's striking is that they are so uniformly tedious in spouting the same tired old talking points. It also highlights how pointless any such bickering is. We're not having a referendum on what the EU is now. We're having a referendum on what Mr Cameron expects our relationship with the EU will be, which has yet to be defined.
All we know is that it will probably be something along the lines of associate membership, which changes very little, but formalises our status as a second class nation in the EU, still with no voice at the top table and no independent right of veto. It is that vision we have to define and attack. Generic griping about the EU isn't productive.
To that end, the flurry of activity from TheKnow is not actually constructive campaigning. All Mr Banks's operation is doing is filling the airwaves with incoherent memes, some of which make all the classic mistakes and isn't particularly helpful - and in some cases damaging to the image of the broader campaign. The last thing we want to be doing is banging on about the Commonwealth yet that is exactly what The Know is doing this weekend.
While I have offered some constructive criticism of Bank's campaign, I have held off outright condemnation in that it is early days and Banks has given us assurances that his operation will improve and that he has taken on board what we have said. Sadly, there is no evidence of this and I'm pretty much resigned now to the fact that Leave.EU will run an awful campaign and like Ukip before it will not heed good advice.
Mr Banks has set upon the US strategy of capturing the base by tapping into the Ukip vote - mimicking the crass populism. This is a mistake. Any Leave campaign will automatically "capture the base" and Ukip support by way of it being a leave campaign. By fashioning it after Ukip, it can only head up the same cul-de-sac Ukip went up and rapidly bang its head on the glass ceiling. From that there is no return.
Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, if Business for Elliot does win the nomination we can say with some confidence that there will be no official campaign at all. You see, you need money to run a campaign and if it's all going in sinecures for Elliot's think tank mates and on "data services" run by Elliot's chums, then there's not going to be much in the kitty to do anything useful. For sure we'll see some idiotic billboards and the obligatory leaflet stuffed through letterboxes, but in terms of an effective and coordinated campaign we won't see anything of the kind.
Meanwhile, it's clear that the media can only see this in terms of an SW1 scrap of personalities and the real conversation will be happening without them. The media is as clueless as ever it was and our politicians are lamentably out of their depth. Certainly Barney the Talking Dinosaur knows more about the EU and trade than your average back bencher. If we want to win we will have to condition our own activists to ignore the main campaigns and what the politicians say and do. In this vote, they don't get a say, we do. We have to undermine the credibility of the media, which should be fairly easy on current form.
Anyone who seriously wants to campaign to leave the EU will have to get serious about building their own online constituency and generating original content of their own. Nothing from Banks or Elliot will be reusable or credible and original material will always be more effective in reaching the audience you have. As far as my own Facebook account goes, I now post more independent bloggers than any legacy media articles. For years now the mainstream media has been freezing voices out, squeezing out alternative ideas and more informed sources. We should now turn the tables on them and cut them out of our referendum. It is a conversation over our future, not some tawdry plaything for them to fill airtime with.
This referendum is not going to be about their voices. It will be about ours, talking directly to the people, ignoring the noise and shutting out the parasites who would take it as their own. Between now and the referendum, our task is to build up a stronger understanding of the the issues that goes beyond the typical eurosceptic memes, and producing original content that adds to the debate. More than that, we need to make sure our side knows which battle it is fighting. It won't be a scrap between the Leave and Remain camps. Trading statistics and infographics wins no votes. What matters is that we attack the real target. That will be David Cameron selling us his second class status sell out. In that we cannot rely on Tories in that tribal allegiances and careers always trump principle,
When it comes to The Know, Business for Elliot and Ukip, I just think to hell with them all. If we wait for them to get their acts together we will be waiting a very long time. That is time we do not have and we cannot afford to let them waste our time. They are best ignored. We are effectively going into this fight without a coherent campaign organisation - we can expect nothing of it except that it will make a lot of noise, waste a lot of money and cause us some embarrassment. We should treat it as a distracting sideshow and focus our attention on winning without them. I don't actually think we need them at all. If what is on offer is the only choice, I would sooner the Electoral Commission just gave us our money back via a tax rebate.