Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A reply.

This post is a reply to a blog by Ruminating Sheep. In it he says: 
As a committed Leaver, (reasons here), I am concerned that the Leave side is putting out contradictory and confusing messages which will fatally weaken the campaign and that some groups are adopting tactics that will fail to convince the undecided centre ground who will ultimately determine the outcome of the poll. We will only have one shot at this so it is important that everyone sets aside political tribalism and preconceived ideas for a higher purpose and to ensure that we get it right.

To this end, I thought I would cover a few factors that I believe are key to our success. If you agree, I The first is unity. The various Leave campaigns must come together and agree a consistent message. If not, ‘Remain’ will exploit the differences and portray leavers as inconsistent and lacking any clear plan for what would happen following a vote to leave. George Osborne has already made comments to this effect and we can expect much more of the same unless things change. There are positive reasons for a Leavers’ union too as both camps could bring important strengths to a combined campaign. 
Unity? Fuhgeddaoudit. Not going to happen. I would rather some groups be right than all of the groups be united and wrong.  We would accept unity if they were united behind a workable exit plan and that plan were informing the campaign. That is not going to happen either though. Dominic Cummings is convinced of his own superiority and is never going to adopt Flexcit. Instead all they are going to do is blunder from pillar to post, walking into every trap. Leave.EU will likely do the same.
VoteLeave could provide media and westminster access, expertise and personalities whist Leave.EU has an existing army of well-organised, extremely enthusiastic and dedicated UKIP activists that could be easily tapped into for local campaigns and doorstep campaigning. Such a union would also allow a single campaign to disassociate itself from any particular political party and all the tribalism that such associations promote.

Whilst the grassroot supporters of VoteLeave and Leave.EU seem amicably disposed to each other, their respective leaderships are too wrapped up in egotistical arguments over leadership and related tribal politics. The news yesterday that the two sides had failed to agree to any kind of merger is a massive blow to Leavers of all camps and I would recommend that supporters of both sides lobby their leadership to make them think again especially as it seems the differences are more about leadership personalities than campaign technicalities. If we enter the referendum with these two large camps operating separately then Leave will lose the referendum. Its as simple as that. More background to this issue can be found in an article here.
The politics here are complex and the rivalries go back years. Vote Leave is very much the product the the Tory brat pack - an insular little bubble that sees the referendum campaign as its own property. It's a gravy train to them that will be a career stepping stone. One which they are busy cannibalising, carving our sinecures for their friends and relatives. They have no intention of including anybody from outside their own grubby little circle. It is as "establishment" as establishment gets.

Moreover, it's a snobby little circle. The idea of sharing the limelight with anyone is offensive to them. Just look at their young activists. In the main they are ToryBoy interns from the Tory bubble. There is nothing grassroots about this organisation and the only use it sees for the grassroots is for them to obey the diktats of Dominic Cummings. There is no compulsion upon them to enter a dialogue with anybody. It is a wholly top down relationship by an unaccountable organisation that has presumed the role of lead Leave campaign before it has gone anywhere near the electoral commission.

This would be offensive to us even in the most cordial circumstances, but when the mastermind behind Vote Leave is a nasty, vindictive and arrogant bully with only a very shallow understanding of the issues, surrounded by ambitious sycophants - then that is something of a problem. Especially when their message is all at sixes and sevens and the spokesmen involved are not working to a brief, possessing very little subject knowledge.

In calling for unity you are asking us to give this a free pass and somehow work around their chaotic message. We can't. They undermine us at every turn and some of the time, that is less to do with the inherent incompetence of Dominic Cummings as it is vindictive sabotage. You tell us what our reaction to that should be. There is no making nice with these people. The only thing they will accept is obsequious praise. That is their definition of cooperation - as it requires nothing from them in reciprocation. You say:
In my opinion, Dr North’s commitment and frustration occasionally affects the tone and accessibility of his site, and I feel his treatment of the media and the 2 main leave campaigns is mistaken and counter-productive because it deters some who might otherwise be supporters. 
Nothing we haven't heard before - but you are talking as though we were fresh in the game. You should level your complaints at the two main campaigns. In both instances we have two very shallow campaigns barging into the limelight, not understanding the technicalities or the terrain. Vote Leave won't be told anything despite repeated attempts through back channels to persuade. We have tried a more subtle approach which resulted in Daniel Hannan and Cummings conspiring to cut off funding for Richard North. How are we supposed cooperate with that? I'm all ears.

Then on the other hand we have Leave.EU whose excuse is "Sorry, we're new at this, give us time - we will make mistakes". Except they are making totally avoidable mistakes that could have been prevented by heeding much of the good advice directed at them. Advice they repeatedly choose to ignore. The more we ask them to moderate their message, the worse they get. They completely ignore us. I'm not going to give them a free pass on that. We don't have time to let them fumble around in the dark and work it out by trial and error. This is a fight to the death and a one shot deal. We do not have the luxury of waiting for them to get their act together. You say:
"I would like to end with a note on media (I don’t admire them but they are unfortunately a necessary evil (My views are here). This is one area where I do disagree with EUReferendum.com’s approach. They correctly identify the problem concerning the lack of proper analysis but they seem to react to this by throwing brickbats at individual reporters and media organisations. The tone is aggressive, and in my view will alienate the very people that we need to culture in order to get key messages across and to prevent the slick propaganda machine of Remain having primacy. They refer to them as ‘legacy media’ but I feel this might be wishful thinking by committed individuals who perhaps feel somewhat ignored.
Time is not a luxury we have. We don't have time to schmooze all the hacks writing absolute garbage. We could spend the time sucking up to these people but we have been there before. They say they agree with you and they understand and then completely ignore the points put to them. Thus diplomacy is a waste of time. I feel that humiliating them is a faster approach. These idle hacks must be shown up for who and what they are. Some respond well as all good journalists thrive on criticism - the others will just put up walls, in which case we haven't really lost anything as they were never going to listen to us anyway.

The likes of Bannerman, Hannan, Carswell and Goodwin put up walls the moment anyone so much as disagrees with them. They are only interested in projecting ego and have no interest in debate. Your role in this is is to bask in their glory and accept their gospel. Over many years we have put it to them that they are mistaken. On the few times they see fit to acknowledge their mistakes, they will lift our work verbatim without acknowledgement. We are quite magnanimous about it considering how often they do it. We don't mind too much since them promoting our message is all for the greater good. But don't expect us to be nice about it. We are talking about theft here.

You will see from our Twitter activity that those bloggers who pitch in will get links from us and mutual retweets. We have always been about mutual assistance and inclusion. They do not see it that way. They are parasites who lift what they want and leave the rest - seeing the success of other voices as a threat rather than a contribution. They are in transmit mode only. They are guarding an orthodoxy and winning comes second to that. There is only really one response to that. Hostility.

More than that, as a tactic, it actually works. Hostile as we are, there are those who attempt to see it from our point of view - and when they do, they see precisely what we see. These are shallow, venal and unpleasant people exploiting the platform and exploiting the work of others and there isn't a way to "cooperate" with them. Cooperation requires effort from both parties. They are not interested in cooperation.

As to the wider media, we use a good cop bad cop means of rounding on hacks. There is a strategy to it and it works. I don't want to give the whole game away by setting it out in detail. It is actually quite obvious to some what we are doing. Those people pitch in and retweet what we do, knowing the strategy in play. We write rebuttals of sloppy work and we push them hard, making an unpleasant noise that cannot be ignored. The people who read our work will see as you have that it is solid work grounded in fact. Those people are the ones who will round on the target - and it is they who will do the gentle persuasion as we move onto the next target.

In short, we know the territory, we know the people and we know what we are doing. You would actually know this if you had been following the blogs in any detail. Very little in this post is anything new to regular readers - and this post is more a courtesy to you because you took the time to blog it.

Don't get us wrong - we take no pleasure in it. We wish we didn't have to. We wish it were not necessary. We wish there were some other way. We also wish that the main campaigns were competent so that we could have unity. We would like it very much if we did not have to fight through our own side to get to the enemy. But they have not given us any choice in this and if being aggressive and making problems for them is what it takes then that is what we will do. The problem isn't us. The problem is in their shop. If they want an easy ride, it is for them to clean up their act and fall into line with us. Then we can have unity.

There is no compromise in this. It can either be done the right way or the wrong way. We will not drop the right way for the sake of lemming like unity. We cannot support the things they say because what they say is wrong. We can gently point this out until the cows come home but they will continue to ignore us - so if a war of infighting is what it takes then that is what they shall have. This can go away at a time of their choosing by engaging with us and including us. Also, an apology wouldn't go amiss.

If you think it can be done some other way in the time we have - we are all ears. But we have been in this game for ten years dealing with these same people. We know how it works and have heard all of your arguments before. It's waste of time - and as you go about trying to persuade such people with a charm offensive - you will find the same things we have. It is impenetrable.

If in the unlikely event you enjoy some greater success doing it some other way, then that's great - go out and train more like you in your methods with the material we provide. The more people saying what we say the better. The sooner you do, the sooner we can spend less time doing it and instead focus on what we are best at which is producing original research and innovative arguments. That's time better spent for everyone.

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