The Battle for the EU Referendum ‘No’ Campaign Hots Up

Today’s Sunday Times carries a story about the EU Referendum ‘No’ campaign. It claims that organisers on one half of the ‘No’ camp have said they’ll have no problem raising the £7m maximum spend, and that they’ll already spoken with some government ministers and London Mayor Boris Johnson for their support.

All good news, it seems. Except sadly, for those ‘in the loop’ in Westminster, we know it’s total spin.

The truth is there’s a huge battle going on for the heart and soul of the ‘No’ campaign at the moment, with the Sunday Times named Matthew Elliott on one side, and the multi-millionaire UKIP donor Arron Banks on the other.

The truth is, Banks is outperforming Elliott at every juncture at the moment, and while Elliott can bring experience of winning referenda, and some Tax Payers’ Alliance donors and supporters with him, Banks seems to have a greater handle on how to communicate with the general public on the issue.

Banks has the populist rhetoric nailed. He has the ad agency on board. He has a much better tech and get out the vote system behind him. And he has the money to burn (sorry Arron, crass I know…).

In reality, Elliott should fall in line behind Banks’s ‘In the Know’ campaign, which has in a few short weeks attracted 40,000 people in support on Facebook.

And yes, it is because Bank is spending money. He has money to spend. And he’s doing it for the Eurosceptic cause. Elliott on the other hand is still desperately trying to fundraise, therefore he’s unable to actually focus on campaigning, which should be going on already.

Then you’ve got the UKIP/Nigel Farage tour which is set to kick off this autumn. Banks will obviously help out with publicity via the ‘In The Know’ campaign where he can – whereas Elliott’s allies are less than UKIP friendly.

These are Tory MPs, donors, and activists who are terrified of what could happen for UKIP after a referendum. An SNP redux, they fear.

And this is the main problem with the ‘No’ campaign at the moment. It is fractured, between the long-standing, establishment, softly-softly, ‘No’ advocates, and the big, swinging radicals of the Eurosceptic ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

I’m sure that most people will rationally respond, “Oh for Christ’s sake, just drop the egos and all work together,” but I’m sad to say that the divisions may be too deep for that to happen.

I reckon Arron Banks has the better handle on the situation than Elliott at the moment – especially given the latter’s insistence on defending part-time Eurosceptic Boris Johnson after his ‘go native’ interview with a German newspaper.

The Westminster No campaign will be very different to the rest of the country’s No campaign, and that of course may be the difference between a loss and a victory.

And in my estimation it is not the outsiders like Banks who are to blame. It’s the closed shop of Westminster, establishment politicos who are just looking for their peerage or party nomination.


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