LeaveHQ, 08/11/2015  
 


Things are not going too well for the Leave campaign. We have always said that the referendum would be won or lost in the early days. It looks to the outsider like we have lost already. It is likely that either Vote Leave Ltd or Leave.EU will be the lead campaign organisation. It no longer matters which since they are both equally inept.

Vote Leave Ltd is very much a product of the Westminster Bubble. They will not reach out from behind their iron curtain, they will not seek out or mention sources external to them, and they play the entire campaign via the media. The rest of us do not get a look in. It will be a circus for their entertainment. We will see staged debates between all the usual faces in a tightly controlled environment where different ideas are excluded. The debate will be shallow, tedious and predictably wrong.

The alternative is for Arron Bank's operation to win the nomination. That will follow a path very similar to Ukip's lamentable election campaign. A slow motion train-wreck and the object of ridicule. It makes all the same flawed assumptions as Ukip, and repeats all the same mistakes while expecting different results.

Either way we will be short changed and in one shape or another, both organisations will make their share of avoidable mistakes. We list our six key concerns here.

Yobbery

According to the Telegraph, "Vote Leave is now gearing up for 12 months of protest, including disrupting the meetings of pro-EU companies and organisations, ahead of the referendum on Britain’s membership, which must be held at some point before the end of 2017. Dominic Cummings, its campaign director, said the Establishment was now in its “crosshairs” as the campaign heated up, adding: “You think is nasty – you ain't seen nothing yet.”

This is idiocy on stilts. Nobody likes political gatecrashers. It is frowned upon. The very last thing we want to do is get nasty. Yah-boo mobs never look good, it has never worked - and it will be embarrassing. It may make the headlines, but they won't be good headlines. It will toxify the debate and make it impossible to claim the high ground. Gimmicks will not win this and now Cummings has announced that they are orchestrated the opposition will have a field day with it. Certainly, interns and posh toryboys from the campaign office will endear themselves to nobody. 

Incoherence

Leave.EU thinks that their house chimpanzee (pictured) tweeting any old tosh that appeals to the left, then any old tosh that appeals to the right makes them a cross party campaign. It speaks to no principle - and knowing that Bank's operation is not too far removed from the populist Ukip - the left will (rightly) see it as an insult to their intelligence.

Indiscriminately plastering the web with anything that suits the agenda ensures that any well crafted message is drowned out by noise. Leave.EU is a textbook example of what not to do.

Inconsistency

You can't be saying we'll save billions to spend on nurses in one breath while in the next saying we will continue a trading relationship with the EU. Cooperation costs money. These refined arguments matter. Failure to win the intellectual argument robs us of our credibility and we lose oif we do not hold the confidence of the public. If we lose the arguments, it will be noticed.

Opinion formers, tweeters and bloggers will be looking at our side to see if we make sense and to see if we have a point. Splattering all kinds of crap onto the internet just because it's anti-EU just looks desperate, incoherent and motivated by an irrational hatred of the EU.

You can't say we seek a close relationship with the EU when you've been calling them all the names under the sun and badmouthing their most senior figures either. It's like screaming at the owner of a business in the carpark on your way to a job interview. You may be the right person for the job, but when the guy in the carpark is the interviewer, you blew it before you even walked in the door. Naturally this excludes Nigel Farage who has done nothing but make personal attacks in tub-thumping Youtube speeches. Nothing he says about cooperation can be taken remotely seriously now.

Guesswork

Our task is to win the confidence of voters. With both campaigns lacking any strategic ability and having no expertise on EU matters, they will clutter the debate and lose the argument.

"We can get a better deal than Norway!" they exclaimed. The internet responded. They asked all the right questions. Our lot didn't have answers beyond blind optimism and guesses. They have suppositions as to what might be achievable in some circumstances depending on certain variables. That's all. Such is too woolly to reassure the public enough to take a gamble. The public know when politicians are winging it. This will be no different. We will be judged on our competence and shall be found wanting.

The problem we have is that it is impossible to teach a person who thinks they already know something. The eurosceptic crowd are the last people on earth who will listen and thus will continue to get it wrong. Ultimately their hubris will be our undoing.

Underestimating the public

Arron Banks thinks Brits are thick. He's pumping out a low grade populist message because he thinks that will win over the public. It didn't work for Ukip in the election and it won't work for us. He is hoping to pull off a "bait and switch" maneuvre. He hopes to capture the base then change the message. A practice he claims works in US open primaries.

There's a problem here though. This is not a US open primary, it's a UK referendum - and his own material thus far has already made the switch impossible. The tat his operation pumps out has already lost the confidence of Brexit supporters and is an object of ridicule on Twitter before the campaign is even fully warmed up.

When it comes down to it, the undedcided voters will ask themselves if we sound credible. If we're busy insulting their intelligence while belching out contradictions and can't get our story straight, we won't win their confidence. It's never wise to take a British voter for a fool.

People are quite capable of grasping complex arguments. On this issue there is a a huge demand for clear, concise and grown up arguments and they know propaganda when they see it. Brits are pragmatists. They will take a gamble, but not a reckless one. If we have a solid case and we explain it well we can gain their trust. Bamboozling them with statistics will simply turn them off - or away completely. You can't pull the wool over their eyes or bore them and you must never insult them. Banks seems intent on trying though.

Strategy and Planning

Some people assume that activity is productivity, and that successful campaigning amounts to simply keeping busy. Any activity is good so long as it is activity. Then there are people like Dominic Cummings who think strategy is mapping out different types of campaigning and simply executing it in a particular order.

In truth very little activity is worthwhile unless there is an immediate objective contributing to a larger objective. You have to work out what you want to say and how you're going to say it well in advance and optimise your message according to the issue of the day. A quick look at Leave.EU's Twitter account shows you that no such thinking is going on there.

Simply responding to the Remain campaign is not worthwhile activity. They are not the political actors in this. The EU and David Cameron are. It is they who we must watch and they who are the opposition. We must have a solid foundation of arguments that undermine their claims and we must be able to offer a better, credible alternative. All we have offered thus far is unhinged hatred of the EU.

Then there's the matter of a Brexit plan. How we leave is as important as why. In the course of the debate, the most likely exit scenario will make itself apparent as the political realities become known.

Already it has been established that the Norway Model is the most realistic mechanism for leaving the EU, which puts inherent limitations on what Brexit can achieve in the short to medium term. That then puts the brakes on certain claims you can make. Since neither operation has a Brexit plan and is wining it, making improbable and unlikely promises, they are engineering their own credibility chasm.

Eventually they will have to concede certain grounds which will undo a lot of the promises they have made. This WILL happen and that's when we will release all the emails from Dominic Cummings saying that we didn't need a plan.

With all that said, this is entirely an academic exercise. Arron Banks isn't going to listen. Dominic Cummings isn't going to listen. Nigel Farage isn't going to listen. And nor are their respective supporters. Every outing they make undermines us that little bit more and they shall not learn from their mistakes. You see it is not what we have said. It's who's saying it. If you're not in their gang, you don't exist. They dominate the sphere by way of having the greater resources and if you're not telling them they're clever and wonderful, you don't get a hearing. That is how tribal politics works.

The problem is that there isn't time to stroke the egos of these men. We cannot tell them they are clever and wonderful when they are manifestly incompetent. Thus the only weapons we have are the power of ideas and ridicule. Of the latter, there shall be plenty. If it can be turned around, it will not be by men like Banks or Cummings. It will have to be us.






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