Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeKathy GyngellKathy Gyngell: The Brexit campaign is a fast-motion car crash

Kathy Gyngell: The Brexit campaign is a fast-motion car crash


It’s all going Dave’s way again. Who would have credited it? He is the veritable wobbly man – round bottomed, tilting over but always righting himself, however many times he is pushed over.

The sun shines on him and Remain. He doesn’t even have to defend the corpse he’s shackled us to. With Labour set for a historic trashing at the local council elections and Vote Leave busy digging its own – and Brexit’s – grave he can afford to smile.

If Teflon Dave pulls off yet another of his Houdini escapes, the reason will be not the strength of his hand, but the incompetence of the campaign leaders of Brexit’s troops.

Any euphoria left at the Vote Leave HQ from winning their official Brexit designation must have all but evaporated by the end of last week. Within days, its new spokesmen had failed to counter George Osborne’s threat that Brexit would involve a costly and messy divorce or his ‘Brexit would leave Britain permanently poorer’ lambast.  Vote Leave resorted to bombast. Michael Gove wasted a three-minute opportunity on Today to rebut it. As for his speech – he might as well have sent out flyers saying ‘Brexit will leave Britain no better off than Albania’.

Then came Vote Leave’s abysmal failure to field a coherent response to Obama’s threat, namely that Britain will go to the back of the queue when it comes negotiating post-EU trade deals with the US.

All we got was bluster from Boris along with his and Nigel Farage’s ad hominem attacks and ‘queue versus line’ gags.

Nor have the loyalist commentators helped. Times columnist Janice Turner argued that the King of Cool carries no clout on Brexit. Actually Janice, he does. Like it or not, Obama is the King of Cool here and most Brits still rate him highly. Charles Moore’s pontifications on Obama’s ‘failure to understand’ the EU cut no more ice.

They’ve known for weeks that Obama was coming, yet still Vote Leave had no coherent or convincing argument prepared as to why ‘out’ is better – and why Brexit won’t leave Britain the victim of a bad divorce.

Their hastily cobbled together fightback this morning did nothing to improve matters. Iain Duncan Smith still did not know what TCW readers know, namely that: “The UK is the biggest investment partner (of the US) already and the US is the biggest investor in the UK ($324 billion)…(that) UK investment in the US last year was $282 billion… (that) Over a million Americans work for British companies and over a million Britons are employed by American companies… (that) We are already at the front of the queue doing $56 billion of transatlantic trade last year…”

Facts like these should be shouting out at you from the front page of Vote Leave’s website. A rallying point and driving force, it most certainly is not. It’s not even updated on a daily basis. The most recent comment on the site on the Obama subject by Sunday night was Lord Owen’s Friday post headed ‘The people are puzzled’ – just about summing up Vote Leave’s response too.

Possibly they are still in shock following the car crash appearance of Dominic Cummings – Vote Leave’s Campaign Director – before Andrew Tyrie’s Treasury Select Committee on Thursday.

Mr Cummings’s stubborn refusal under Mr Tyrie’s persistent and impeccably polite grilling to acknowledge his discredited and incorrect figures – ones that he still has the rest of his ‘team’ relaying – was astonishing.

Comments poured in fast and furious as this new Youtube gem winged its way round the internet:

“This guy Cummings can’t answer ANY of the financial questions that someone who is genuinely interested in understanding the pros and cons of IN/OUT might ask about the financial benefits of leaving the EU….What is the point of “Vote Leave” – and Cummings – if it and he can’t even do that, particularly when they are constantly banging on about the supposed financial benefits of leaving? Beyond awful!…”

“Not far off a Thick of It sketch. Maniac.”

“Watching this again, it’s Kevin the Teenager (almost) grown up! Both hilarious and deeply tragic.”

“What a train wreck”

When the messenger (not the message) becomes the story – it’s time to worry.

Everyone (and I am talking about committed and politically well-connected Eurosceptics) I have spoken to is in despair. We have lost, they tell me.

They are only staying loyal for fear that not doing so will further damage Brexit’s cause. But sticking their heads in the sand won’t rescue it either.

Vote Leave has two months to get its act together – starting now. So, in a spirit of constructive criticism, I would advise them to:

  • Devise a less arrogant campaign – one that appeals across the board and recognises people have reasonable fears about their economic future and “show that a prosperous alternative is possible” as the Telegraph advised.
  • Remember the foe is Remain, not Ukip! This means a hand of friendship put out to Nigel Farage and the GO team – fast.
  • Stop treating Mr Farage like some sort of pariah or outcast. Yes, it might be great that six cabinet Ministers have nailed their colours to Brexit’s mast but on their own, Vote Leave looks like a typical Tory bash – the sort that turns off three quarters of the British public.
  • Face up to BBC bias. With typical Tory arrogance they seem to think a higher frequency of their own appearances on the BBC means the Corporation has reformed itself. Wrong. It continues to be deeply biased as News-watch keeps showing. Despite this, no co-ordinated effort appears to be being made to put on the pressure on, or to protest – despite Laura Kuenssberg’s and Norman Smith’s latest outrageously negative (for Brexit) assessments of the importance of Obama
  • Take themselves off properly  to plan their (still to be decided) campaign message and ground campaign, rather than cobbling up overnight cynical U-turns as today.

In the end the referendum will be won – not on trade, not on economics (though they had better get on and master the facts fast and make a coherent case based on them) – but on the critical issues of immigration, border control, and the freedom and sovereignty we need to control our destiny. Andrew Marr did their job for them yesterday as he skewered Theresa May.

By avoiding immigration, Vote Leave bought into Remain’s ‘being anti immigration tarnishes you’ rhetoric. Now they have to get over the fact that it is not the dirty word they’ve been treating it as.

They are above all in dire need of professional PR help, to help them sort this out and get back on the front foot – with a consistent a campaign message and plan that can be stuck to – while managing the gang of egos responsible for communicating it.

For unless Vote Leave deals with the rot that seems to be at its heart, all the millions poured into this campaign will be wasted – as will Britain’s once in a lifetime chance to exercise its right to choose its future.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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