Regular readers of this blog will know I am a moderate Eurosceptic. As a Libertarian I support free trade and free movement of people. I have lived and worked in Amsterdam and Spain and have no fears of other countries, their people or traditions. Nor have I ever feared Britain's culture being "swamped" any more than the people of Spain should fear the British ex-pats on Costa swamping Andalusian culture with their demands for All Day Breakfast por favor whilst reading the Spanish Edition of the Daily Mail.
My opposition to the EU is not an emotional spasm based on patriotism or fear of the unknown. I oppose it because I simply believe it is doomed to fail and that we can do so much better alone. The history of the 20th century is littered with the economic (and too often human) scars of mankind's attempts to control the free market; Bretton Woods, the Gold Standard, the ERM and of course EMU. Each failed and left behind a legacy of debt, misery, depression, and even bloodshed and conflict. Yet we are making the same mistakes again.
I have no formal position on the campaign, though I have let it be known that provided my day job allows and my employers consent, I intend to take leave of absence to campaign for Britain to Leave the EU. Should the Leave campaign fail, the show will be over; it will be a generation before the issue can be revisited and by then the relentless propaganda and the ratchet effect of the EU bureaucracy will make winning a vote almost impossible. In reality, it's now or never.
I am pleased that the main Leave campaign is being run by people with a proven track record. Matthew Elliot is widely respected through his work on Big Brother Watch and the TPA. Stephen Parkinson I know slightly from my work on Police & Crime Commissioners. Both were key players in the outstandingly successful NotoAV Campaign, which saved our country from perpetual coalition government.
There is however a big difference between NotoAV and the Leave campaign. NotoAV was held on the same day as the local elections and was officially endorsed by the Conservative Party, with almost unanimous support from Conservative activists in the country. This provided a nationwide field operation, command structure plus enthusiastic evangelists.
At the top of the campaign NotoAV produced a series of DL cards with stark messages, such as "he needs bullet proof vests not an alternative voting system". I ordered 50,000 of these which were delivered to activists through our network of constituency and ward organisers, and they were dropping through letterboxes within 48 hours. Throughout West Kent every Conservative LG election leaflet carried NotoAV messages, the 20,000 houses canvassed during the campaign were also were also asked to vote NotoAV, and on polling day around 80,000 Conservative pledges received NotoAV GOTV material.
Did this make a difference? Unsurprisingly the four West Kent local government areas returned NotoAv votes far in excess of the county, regional and national averages.
The Conservative Party has understandable and rightfully in my opinion declared itself neutral in the campaign. As a consequence. whilst individual members are free to campaign for a Leave vote, no party resources can be used including membership lists, databases or organisational structures.
And this is what concerns me. I have seen little or no evidence that the Leave campaign are investing anywhere near enough time and resource to build the field operation that will be required to maximise the vote. Just take, for example, the 50,000 NotoAV DL cards we delivered in West Kent. If the Leave campaign wished to do likewise next week...
1. Who would order them?
2. Where would they be delivered and stored?
3. Who would bundle them up into suitable delivery areas?
4. Who would take the hundreds of bundles and deliver them to activists?
5. Who are the activists who will deliver them?
6. Who will keep in touch with the activists to check it's been done, say thank you and sort out problems?
In Kent alone there are 750,000 letterboxes. We will need an army of 3,000 volunteers just to deliver one leaflet to each house. Who is recruiting, training and managing these people? This may seem detailed and trivial when viewed from Westminster, but it is such organisational detail which can deliver that extra 5% which could be the margin between failure and success.
Any successful campaign needs a powerful air war to set the tone and narrative of the campaign, but it also needs an efficient and disciplined field operation in each parish, village, town and city. It needs to build coalitions of people who can influence and persuade their peers and reassure the doubters; young people, doctors, faith leaders, shopkeepers, military veterans, farmers, small business owners and so on. But most importantly of all, the campaign must be positive in its language as well as reflective of the whole community.
We must campaign positively and confidently that Britain is strong enough, good enough and confident enough to trade and thrive outside the constraints of the EU. If we allow the campaign to become a referendum on immigration and fear then we will fail, and deservedly so.
I will not be campaigning for the UK to leave the EU because I don't like foreigners or I don't like different cultures or because I feel threatened. I will be campaigning for the UK to leave the EU because I believe in my country and I believe it can do better as an independent nation trading freely with whoever we choose on the terms we freely agree.
I BeLeave In Britain sums my view up nicely.