ConservativeHome was among the first to make the case that CCHQ and the Conservative Party’s resources (both data and financial) must not be deployed on either side of the EU referendum. After the wording of the referendum question, and the issue of purdah, it is the third aspect of how the referendum will be fought to come up for debate this month.
Since we covered the topic last week, it has heated up somewhat – today’s Times reports a growing number of MPs calling for resource neutrality in the referendum, quotes Dominic Cummings about Outist donors’ opposition to their money being used to support a Remain campaign and even features a claim that George Osborne believes “they’d have to fold” if the issue came up ahead of the Party conference.
Tim Montgomerie adds the following to the mix:
Am told by senior Tory close to PM that DC does not want Tory machine to be involved in Remain/Leave campaign. Sceptics will be delighted.
— Tim Montgomerie ن (@montie) September 21, 2015
If so, that is extremely good news. The question isn’t settled yet – the Party Board is reportedly discussing it today – but the Prime Minister would be wise not to risk damaging the Conservative Party by committing its resources to either side.
Using CCHQ money, given to the Party for fighting elections and often given by people who want to leave the EU, or voter data, gathered for fighting elections and often gathered by activists who want to leave the EU, for a Remain campaign would harm the cohesion of our Party after the referendum. Almost as bad, it would discourage donations and voter ID efforts by activists in the meantime, as people hang back due to the uncertainty over how their contribution would be used. In short, it would be a shot in the foot.
People on each side of the referendum question have strongly and honourably held views. This site is for leaving the EU – and our surveys suggest that almost six in ten Conservative Party members feel the same – but some of our fellow Conservatives are for staying. As believers in a broad church we have welcomed plenty of the latter to make their case on ConservativeHome. All of us must be free to make our preferred case when the time comes, but we must all do so with our own money, time and data. For the sake of the Conservative Party’s cohesion, its own resources must remain above the fray.