The Remainer – Andrew Marshall
Andrew Marshall has been a Conservative councillor in Camden since 1990, and served as Deputy Leader of the Council and group leader 2006-2010. He is London regional organiser of the Conservative Group for Europe and Deputy CEO of international communications consultancy Cognito.
We spent a great morning on Friday leafleting all the commuter stations in the City of London for ConservativesIn, in a spirited operation organised at Cannon St by Michael Dolley, my agent in Edgbaston 19 years ago. Tying in with Osborne’s speech on financial services, we handed out several thousand targeted leaflets, aimed at the the great bulk of City workers who are not investment bankers or traders. Lots of recognition about how critical Single Market passporting is to so many jobs in London. This was really the week that ConservativesIn moved up a gear – I went briefly into the offices in Victoria and could see the range of activity across the country, with the battle bus as a centre piece. ConservativesIn is all about making it comfortable for Conservatives to work for Remain, and a glance at social media shows just how many MPs, activists and councillors are now doing their bit. Interestingly, however, some Remain MPs have got involved directly in StrongerIn: perhaps, in a way, that feels more distanced from the differences within the party.
Earlier we held a cross-party media photocall locally with around 40 StrongerIn volunteers. Sir Keir Starmer MP didn’t seem too fussed at having his picture in the local papers in between me and our assiduous Conservative group leader Claire-Louise Leyland. For StrongerIn volunteers, seeing different parties working together is very refreshing.
On bank holiday Monday we had well over 100 volunteers out and in Hampstead got six wards delivered. On the street, both Leavers and Remainers are now more vocal. EU citizens (to use the shorthand – in my view we’re all EU citizens) are increasingly dismayed by their lack of a vote that affects their future so directly. A bit like the Uitlanders in 1890s Jo’Burg. As one said, “I’ve paid taxes in London for 35 years.” Whatever the result, EU citizens could be stimulated into much more active political participation, with considerable opportunity and risk for our party in London. Did EU voter turnout already go up in the mayoral election? I’ve 1,500 EU constituents in my ward, and a couple of our Leaver councillors need to be asked why they want to take away voting and residency rights from people they directly represent.
Boris is becoming a hate figure, for older Remainers in particular. One of our activists is principally motivated to deliver for us by the threat of Boris becoming leader.
An officer of the local association asks me on Twitter, “Are you in favour of discriminating in immigration by nationality?” – the new wiseguy line of the Leavers. I ask back if that means he wants to remove the rights Irish citizens have enjoyed since 1921 to live here. He’s too young to remember, but many of those in our party most sceptical about Europe since the 1960s have been precisely those keenest on discriminating by nationality in immigration policy.
I missed Gove on Sky News and tried to form an opinion from the commentary. It seems he did well, but had no answers on Leave’s lack of an economic plan. A medal, and a job in an advertising agency, is owed to the audience member who came up with the line that Leave “is like a First World War general ordering us to ‘go over the top’ – with no idea of what is waiting at the front line.” Jamie Dimon’s intervention the same day – about concrete jobs at risk – was very useful. Gove’s not really interested in business, and in fact none of the Leave cabinet ministers have strong personal or policy experience of business.
I’ve been prepping with my young Stronger In colleague for the debate we’re doing in West Hampstead. Pret-a-Manger gave us coffee on the house when they saw my “In” teeshirt. We’re up against John Mills of Labour Leave, one of my former council colleagues. I can’t imagine he’s happy with Vote Leave’s relentless immigration emphasis. The Turkey poster, with its blatant lies and little footprints making their way across Europe, was worthy of the English Defence League.
In prepping for the debate I’m trying to get my head some of the principles of the WTO – Most Favoured Nation, rules of origin and the like. I’m convinced that knowledge of international trade policy among politicians – on both sides – is rather patchy. Leave types seem to think that “free trade” means trade without any rules – they should look at wto.org.
My column last week generated some typical online comments. ConHome’s editor reminded me once that one shouldn’t assume that they are representative of all readers. What’s odd is that some of those most virulently Eurosceptic seemed to be viewing the ground campaign as spectators rather than participants. Maybe some are less mobile, but if you’re really worried about the “EUSSR”, you’d think you’d be busy campaigning. Maybe they’re revolutionary defeatists.
The Leaver – Emily Knight
Emily Knight is Vote Leave‘s Volunteer Co-ordinator for Newham, the London Borough where she has lived for eight years. She is also an executive officer of West Ham Conservative Association and runs the Westminster office of Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and Vote Leave board member.
I came home from work one evening last week to find my hallway contained a new pile of boxes, this time with over 6,000 cards and labels to be addressed to individual postal voters living in target streets across the borough. I am daunted by the task, wondering how on earth we will get them all delivered within a week before postal votes hit peoples’ doormats.
I sort them into piles by ward and then send out the call to arms to volunteers. To my astonishment and delight people reply, and do so in numbers. In most wards at least three or four people have come forward to offer to deliver the area closest to them. I spend a few evenings dropping them off to volunteers across Newham and keep the big piles for our group delivery session over the bank holiday weekend. The rest of my evenings last week were spent sticking the address labels onto the cards – a repetitive task which makes the tips of my fingers raw after a few hours. The only comfort being the glass of red that hurries things along, and the knowledge that this scene is being repeated all over the country by our incredible ground teams, including my boss who texts to say she is also labelling up cards in Northumberland. In Redbridge a pub night has been organised in which thousands of cards were labelled up over a few hours and a few more pints. By the time the bank holiday weekend rolls around, we only have the three biggest wards to deliver and the weather is kind. Perhaps too kind as I am now sporting a ‘tan’ in the shape of a Vote Leave t-shirt. The number of volunteers we have is incredible. I had hoped for perhaps a team of four or five, but on Saturday morning there are fifteen of us, and the first ward is delivered in under an hour.
Yet again, the majority of our team are new to political activity and represent a cross-section of the ethnic backgrounds that make our borough so diverse. Among them is Veneranda who is Italian. Like my own mother – who is Dutch and campaigning vigorously for Vote Leave in Essex – she cannot vote in the EU referendum as she is an EU citizen, but she believes Brexit to be the best option for her adopted country and is willing to help out with the campaign. She and her neighbour Pat spend the weekend getting cards out to target postal voters in their corner of Canning Town. On bank holiday Monday, our team in East Ham is joined by a Romanian immigrant who moved to the UK as a result of the collapsing economy in southern Italy where he had lived for the previous ten years. He is campaigning for leave because he has seen for himself the economic limitations of EU membership and the disregard it has for the democratic will of citizens.
Our team has also been bolstered by people from other areas of London. Graham from Notting Hill joins us for two days running having been advised by Vote Leave Chairman Gisela Stuart, that East London is where it’s at for an interesting campaign – thanks Gisela, feel free to send even more! With the incredible work of our rapidly-growing team of volunteers, we deliver cards to postal voters in every target street in Newham in time for the arrival of their postal votes. My pedometer app tells me I have walked 34 miles over the course of the bank holiday weekend, allowing me to justify the couple of pints consumed at the end of each day.
Our focus now returns to canvassing using Vote Leave’s impressive algorithm-based system, which presents me with the chance to work my way back onto the national leader board of canvass data entry, after the guys in Wycombe, Peterborough, Corby and Surrey booted me down the list. People ask me how the algorithm is devised – I have no idea, it’s literally rocket science, but it works and is incredibly reactive to results. I wish we had a system like this in the party, and I hope they will look at designing something similar. Explaining canvassing to those new to political campaigning is now such a frequent occurrence that a camera crew from Vote Leave head office comes out to film our team in Newham in order to produce a ‘how to’ video for new volunteers. The sight of the camera comes as a surprise to Bill from Enfield, in Newham visiting his mother, who has joined our session and is himself a canvassing virgin. We all try to ignore the camera and carry on regardless, save for a few repeated ‘takes’ of crossing the road and pointing at maps. The end result is a great introduction to canvassing, if a little cringe-worthy to watch for those of us featured. Still, if it helps people to understand the value of what we are doing, it will have been worth the slight embarrassment.
I am still hearing reports in the press that people need more facts. This certainly doesn’t tally with what people tell me. The members of the British public I speak to understand that elections involve different sides posing their arguments and their predictions for the future, with the decision taken by the electorate. Not one person has told me they need more facts. I have not been involved in an election campaign where the people have been more well-versed in the arguments for either side and the developments in the campaign. Just yesterday, a gentleman in North Woolwich even name-checked Jean-Claude Juncker and referred to the European Commission President’s threats of doom for the UK should we vote to leave: “No one tells us what to do – he’s made my mind up this morning” – although he didn’t strike me as an otherwise floating voter, not least because he has a homemade ‘Vote to Leave the EU on 23 June’ poster in his window.
Anger at outside interference has cropped up time and again, particularly after Obama’s visit which is still being mentioned, alongside the preposterous suggestion that the EU prevents the continent from descending into a third world war. “I mean if they thought that, why are we having a referendum. Bunch of liars the lot of them.” This doesn’t bode well for trust in the party in areas like this after the referendum, but these residents live on streets ravaged by the Blitz. They know what leads to war and none of them think it will be sparked by leaving Mr Juncker’s jurisdiction. Prior to that suggestion, Project Fear had caused bemusement for those I canvassed, but invoking the war has sparked real anger among these east-enders.