Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dominic Cummings is the man who will keep us in the EU

LeaveHQ has picked up on this Guardian article in which Lord Rose makes some pretty outlandish remarks about Brexit. Rose has said that the Leave campaigns are proposing a specific deal: ending all budget contributions, ending free movement and repatriating economic regulations while retaining full access to the single market.

LeaveHQ can justifiably claim this is untrue of them, but the Rose's message is a sideswipe at Leave.EU and more specifically Vote Leave Ltd. Neither have put forth a centrepiece Brexit proposition.

All we have heard thus far from Dominic Cummings is that there will be an unspecified "better deal" than the Norway Option. He openly attacks the single market on Twitter - and makes infantile claims about what Brexit will save the taxpayer - and how we can control our borders. Somehow in all this, trade and jobs are unaffected.

So in fact Lord Rose can justifiably infer that Vote Leave wants nothing to do with either the EU or the single market and wants regulatory divergence - without showing any sign of understanding the what that entails or what the EU will demand in kind.

For all that I have said about Leave.EU, exactly the same applies to Vote Leave in that their entire output follows roughly the same pattern - making indiscriminate claims about what Brexit can achieve. What this screams is confusion within the campaign, a lack of expertise - and uncertainty for business. It says that the Leave campaigns are directionless.

From this, Lord Rose can quite justifiably point to the worst case scenario and say that is what would happen. I don't blame him either because that's exactly what I would do in his position. He's not far wrong. In that regard, Dominic Cummings ought to be thankful that I am not in Lord Rose's position because I would do a much more effective job of ripping holes in his campaign.

The message coming out of Vote Leave is that we can have it all our own way by severing ties with the EU and that there are no consequences to this. Cummings will say in that oh-so-patronising way that "you should actually read what we write and say on television" - but as it happens I do very little else. Their flagship youtube video makes claims about deregulation and not paying into the EU budget. I read their often contradictory newsletters that clutter my inbox. There is no consistency at all. This is dangerous.

The Brexit proposition put forth by Dominic Cummings is one that will be kicked around in the media. As the commentariat gradually snowball their knowledge of Brexit issues, they will see that Lord Rose has a point - and that Brexit as Cummings sees it is just not a realistic or even achievable. They will conclude, along with other opinion formers, that we just don't have the goods.

From the beginning we have argued that all the populist memes and soundbytes in the world (telling the activist base what they want to hear) will not win this. We must also convince the opinion formers and win the intellectual argument. Thus far, Cummings et al have put forth nothing at all that assists us to that end. Certainly nothing that permeates the noise - which also suggests an ineffectual communications operation. The field is left wide open to speculation about what us Brexiteers want.

You can imagine our frustration as we now have a small army of online activists raring to go. Instead we are looking on in horror as the lead campaign walks into every trap, while having their own best efforts undermined by Cummings - a man determined to exclude everyone who is not willing to be an echo chamber for his diktats. It's maddening.

All of Lord Rose's assertions could be put to bed overnight with a credible Brexit plan. It could end the endless media speculation and shift the debate onto our own turf where the Remain campaign has no traction.

The Europhile think tank British Influence recently posed ten questions to Brexit groups. We answered them in full here. You will see that when we concede on freedom of movement, we sideline their best arguments and leave them with nothing. We are aware that upsets a large body of eurosceptics - but ultimately, it is the job of the campaign to smooth those feathers rather than pander to the whims of the base - which have largely been whipped up by Farage.

What that then does is tighten the scope of the debate to a comparison between our defined Brexit solution and the reforms that Cameron will offer. There will be a choice on offer between two carefully considered futures. Sadly, while Cummings is running the campaign, the choice is one between the security and marginal reforms that Cameron offers - or the total chaos that we can infer from Vote Leave's non-campaign. That is a referendum loser right there.

Frustratingly, the work has already been done for the campaign in Flexcit. It is all there for the taking. We have dedicated campaigners who know the subject far better than any of the spads and interns at Vote Leave - people who don't rest on weekends and work through the night. We are the people who can win it - but Cummings and his crony clan is determined not to let us near, keeping us out in the cold so as not to intrude on what he and his ilk consider their own personal property.

This know-nothing johnny-come-lately is the major obstacle to running an effective campaign. It is his ego and his hubris driving the campaign into a dead end. It is his envy, vindictiveness and spite that will shatter any chance of leaving the EU. This is intolerable. He must go.

Were I in his shoes I would quit now - because eventually the message will get out that he alone is responsible for corrupting the campaign - and if he thinks he's getting a hard time now, he doesn't know the half of it. A man as sour as Cummings will have to pay the piper eventually - and he has definitely pissed off the wrong people. 

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