The central message of the campaign against a regional assembly in the North-East was that it would cost hard-pressed taxpayers more money. That of No to AV was more or less the same: “cost” was one of its three Cs (the other two being complexity and Clegg). “In hard-hitting ads, [the campaign] said that there were better ways of spending that money,” Tim Montgomerie reported in a post-referendum analysis for this sie. “Pensions. Body armour for soldiers. Life support systems for premature babies.”
The Daily Telegraph leads its article on the launch of Vote Leave with the news that it has attracted “some of the Conservative Party’s biggest donors”. It might also have added that it has attracted some of the centre-right’s best brains. “Vote Leave, save money,” the campaign’s site declares as you enter it. “Vote Leave, invest in science.” And: “Vote Leave, take control.” If we take control by leaving the EU, you see, we will be able to spend the £350 million we send each week to the EU better, and as we decide.
This is straight out of the North-East and AV referendum playbooks, and is the unmistakable spoor of Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings. Elliott heads up Business for Britain, one of the three groups that have united to form Vote Leave. Cummings has been conducting polling for the organisation. So: no high-minded constitutional abstractions. No EFTA or Article 50 arcana. No focus on controlling and cutting immigration. Instead, a dual message of control and money. The campaign video above issue-checks the NHS, schools, science and research, new roads, better railways, regional airports and cancer drugs.
The feel is modern. And this won’t be just a Tory-inclusive campaign. Conservatives for Britain is joined by the Labour Leave campaign to make up the other two groups in Vote Leave. The co-treasurers are Peter Cruddas (Conservative), John Mills (Labour) and, significantly, Stuart Wheeler, UKIP’s former treasurer. The support for Vote Leave of Douglas Carswell is confirmation that there is support for it within that party. Other politicians on board include Labour’s Kate Hoey, Owen Paterson, Graham Stringer and Steve Baker, who drew an attendance so large at ConHome’s fringe meeting on the EU at the Conservative conference as to stir warnings from security that our marquee was in danger of collapse.
ConservativeHome has said consistently since the election that the renegotiation and reform aims set out in the Tory Manifesto are, while not exactly minimalist, scarcely maximalist either – the “fundamental renegotiation” so popular in some Eurosceptic circles. (And the vagueness of David Cameron’s present renegotiation leaves even this programme in doubt.) We have gone on to argue that, rather than seek to impose this bigger renegotiation on the Prime Minister, Conservative Eurosceptics should accept the logic of their position, campaign for Leave – and that all concerned should conduct themselves with courtesy, mindful that there will be a Party to unite in the referendum’s wake.
We don’t have the benefit of Cummings’s research, but ran our own trial canter of a five-part case for Brexit: fewer politicians, global engagement, better immigration control, a stronger economy…and more money for public services and tax cuts. Vote Leave is thus carrying on where Mark Wallace’s article left off. “We have instituted a strict salary cap of £99,000 so those giving money to the campaign know that the money is going to the campaign – not to huge six figure salaries,” the campaign writes.
Mark has set out why Vote Leave is “best equipped to lead the No side”, and we hope that Leave.EU, and other groups that are for Brexit, now prepare to fold themselves into it. Oh, and there is a final message that flashes up on that Vote Leave site: “Vote Leave, the safer choice”. The campaign aims to turn the biggest advantage enjoyed by Remain – that it is the apparent cause of the status quo – on its head, and explain why the EU = Risk and Leaving = Security. Welcome, Vote Leave.
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