Monday, 14 March 2016

What is Lynton Crosby smoking?

"The campaign to take Britain out of the EU should be putting immigration at its core and warning about its impact on the NHS, Sir Lynton Crosby says today. The former Conservative election strategist, who was credited with helping David Cameron win the general election last year, says that both sides in the debate need to engage more in “Project Fear” to scare voters into agreeing with them."

No. No. No.

Regardless of the fact Cameron's win was as much luck as anything else - caused by a wipeout of Labour in Scotland and Ukip's under-performance, this is suicidal advice. Has he gone mental? Kippers grunting about foreigners and right wingers disingenuously panicking about the NHS? What is he smoking?

All that's going to achieve is all the anti-racists coming out of the closet, all seasoned campaigners equipped with anti-Ukip arguments from the general election, easily re-purposed to combat Brexit arguments. That's all the more damaging in that Ukip never had a leg to stand on with immigration arguments. They don't have the facts and think ending freedom of movement fixes our immigration woes. They are also inexplicably wedded to the "Australian style points based system" that would increase immigration.

In fact, Crosby's advice is what you would take if you were actively trying to lose.

Most of us in the Brexit camp worked hard to get over the message that Ukip should be relegated to the benches specifically to stop them sabotaging chances of winning - but if Vote Leave does go full kippermong in their place, along with its woefully shambolic Brexit message, we will face the most embarrassing defeat in the history of referendums.

The only thing that will win this is to diffuse the fear and offer a credible alternative. Sadly that's not going to happen. There is no possibility of any change of heart by the leave groups on having a plan. Ukip are wedded to their "bespoke" FTA nonsense with and Vote Leave all after something similar - and supposedly informed commentators lack the knowledge to see why this is insanity.

They are firmly convinced they can do a trade deal in one hit - and they this will give them a free pass on freedom of movement - they don't see any need for an interim deal. They believe world trade is simply a matters of signing up other countries ... easy peasy.

Throughout, there is an almost wilful determination to under-estimate the difficulties, and to ignore any dangers. Their fallback remains WTO and, again, they have convinced themselves that the only downside is payment of tariffs, offset by the "huge" savings they get from stopping contributions.

It doesn't matter what you say to them. Those are the established narratives - they're not going to change. We'll go into the polling booths totally unprepared, with our case in tatters. As fast as the remains knock it down, they will repeat the same ideas, dismissing criticism as "Project Fear", which they can safely ignore. Consequently, the informed voter is now lost to us and when we lose, Vote Leave won't even have seen it coming - and will never understand why.

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