Saturday, 13 February 2016
If Leave was a party, you wouldn't vote for it
There are rumours afoot that Grassroots Out is set to become the lead campaign with Leave.eu stepping aside. I suspected as much. From a branding perspective, Leave.eu is utterly toxic and liability. Moreover, certain other rumours may also get out that could sink their campaign. They have just the right ring of incompetence to be true.
So this should be good news. It isn't. It is billed as a cross party outfit but really it's basically Ukip with a bunch of tacked-on virtually unknown backbenchers fronted by Farage, along with Campbell Bannerman and Liam Fox. This is seriously depressing.
As much as GO lacks any real expertise, the chances of them agreeing a consistent message are nil and the enforcement of message discipline is an utterly alien concept. So what we will get is a clan of know-nothings contradicting each other, and if they are consulting Campbell Bannerman for the finer details of Brexit, then they are, to put it bluntly, stuffed.
What it basically means is we will be seeing more and more of Farage and hearing increasingly more about immigration. And now the risk is very real that this may become a referendum on immigration, thus, it will be a repeat of the general election. If that be the case then I don't just expect Leave to lose. It be be comprehensively trounced.
But by the same token, it's no good saying Vote Leave is a better bet. See the picture above. They are deeply invested in the £350m a week meme and now they are pushing hard on the notion that it can be firehosed at the NHS. The credibility gap here is vast, not least if one considers the source. This is as dog-whistle as dog-whistle gets. Nobody is seriously going to buy it.
And this is exactly where we didn't want to be - rushing around various cohorts and pandering to their fears and prejudices. It assumes that voters are entirely one dimensional and stupid.
Between these campaigns they have no strategy, no alternative vision, no plan of attack, and no inherent expertise available to them. It's a disorganised, empty shell of a movement that will be rushing around like headless chickens mistaking activity for productivity. It will fail.
In the end it will be the Radio 4 listeners and current affairs readers who will pass their verdict on all of this. It is their trusted opinions through word of mouth that will decide which way this goes. They're not stupid and they will be fair. They know that the BBC is biased and they know the likes of Nick Cohen and Richard Branson are full of it, and they know there's more to it than what they're being told. And so they will give the Leave campaign a fair hearing.
They will be more generous than I am, forgiving a little confusion. But it won't take them long to realise that the Leave campaign doesn't have a credible and coherent plan or even an in-depth understanding of the issues. Though they will have seen through the scaremongering of the Remain side, they'll look at this "invest in the NHS" stuff with a sceptical eye too. It's baloney.
They will contrast it with all the other splatter-gun nonsense in the public domain. They will be looking for facts, a little reassurance and a little bit of motivation. They won't find it.
As far as your bog standard eurosceptic is concerned, their notion of trading with the rest of the world is the Anglosphere or the Commonwealth, which is largely just a generic eurosceptic fart. It's unconvincing. So too is the "making our own laws" mantra, which will rapidly wear thin. There's no energy to this. It's all the same classic numbers. Nothing original to speak of. It's not inspiring. It's old hat.
Worse still, even the people making these eurosceptic arguments by now know that they aren't true. But they're so bereft of new ideas and arguments that there is now a gentleman's agreement not to rock the boat and keep on slinging mud from the comfort zone. I am not sure why they expect any swing voters to believe their dogma when they don't. In this I feel a sense of resignation and that this bunch will have to lose yet again in order to learn the lessons.
By this point, I should be all fired up in anticipation of the opportunity I have been waiting for all of my adult life, but looking at my comrades in arms, even I'm sometimes wondering if I'm on the right side. Not in a billion years could I vote to remain in the EU, but his sorry bunch could just nullify my will to live just enough to not bother voting. My heart certainly isn't in it at the moment.
Looking at the rogues gallery of Grassroots Out politicians I ask myself if I would vote for this bunch if it were a political party. The answer is categorically not. And do I want to be on the same side as Breitbart and the Daily Express?
While that may sound bleak, that will be the thought process for many a swing voter. It's irrational and not logical, but identity is a huge part of a voting decision. For many it will come down to a decision as to which side is the least repellent in its tone, with the most credible and reassuring vibe. It's not really the Leave side is it?
But let's not close on a depressing note. Few things in politics are certain. There is a way to go yet and opportunities may yet present themselves. But even if not, there is every reason to keep soldiering on. We still need to run a model shadow campaign so we can say, when we lose, how it should have been done. And not for the sake of gloating. You see, we are still leaving the EU - because there's a basic flaw with this referendum.
The question on the ballot paper is "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?". That will only ever produce a muddled result because the result doesn't answer the actual question which is is "Do you want Britain to be ruled by a supreme government for Europe?". I am absolutely confident that if that were the question on the ballot paper, we wouldn't even need a lead campaign. We could all just put our feet up until polling day and then comfortably win it.
Until that question is asked and answered, nothing is going to be resolved by these rituals in between. When the EU does come forth with a new treaty the public will want their say and under no circumstances will they permit a further transfer of powers. That then forces a crisis within the EU where the EU will actively want rid of us. Then we'll get our true referendum. That's the one we will win. This slow-motion trainwreck we are presently experiencing is just part of the process.
In this, a loss is nothing to be feared. It's an opportunity to clean out the rubbish and sweep away the losers who have been sucking the movement dry for years. The movement will need a bloody reckoning starting the day after. While the moderates have been sidelined for this time around, next time we will call the shots. That's why, as futile as it looks right now, the work of us bloggers is more essential now than ever. We are going to get what we want, but we're just going to have to wait a little longer for it.