It is not often that this blog declares neutrality on any subject but I feel that there is no alternative. No, it is not neutral on whether Britain should exit the EU, which is really what matters, but it is hard to work up enthusiasm for any of the Brexit organizations (and I mean any) who are competing for the trophy of being acknowledged by the Electoral Commission as the leader and for all that lovely money.
The news that yet another cross-party, grassroots organization, supported by Kate Hoey, Liam Fox and Nigel Farage has been launched (actually, I knew it was coming) left me neither shaken nor stirred but rather depressed. It's not that I mind different eurosceptic organizations; I have written often enough about the advantage of guerrilla warfare. Having a Conservative and a Labour group for Brexit, or Historians for Britain or Better Off Out who do a good deal of campaigning around the country and have restarted (after a fashion) the Save Britain's Fish campaign that I was involved with some years ago is, I think, a good idea: people can concentrate on their own work. Nor do I find anything wrong with Get Britain Out, which is campaigning specifically among the younger electorate, though they share my view on whether 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote. There are various others and I shall link to them in future postings. They all have their role to play and we all need to work together while concentrating on our own patch. (I shall also try to catch up with the opposition groups but I do wish at least some of them would admit that they are campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union not in Europe. One wonders why they cannot bring themselves to do so.)
What causes problems is the proliferation that is likely to continue of the overall Brexit campaigns, each one of which claims purity of vision and decries its rivals as being heretics at best and The Real Enemy at worst. I shall say it before anyone else: yes, the small and ever fissile left wing groups are like that. Mostly this does not matter but at present we do have an important issue at hand and a highly important referendum to win.
So whom do we have? This will go over some well known material but I think it might be useful to have a kind of a summary of where we are. While we are on the subject here is a somewhat inadequate but quite amusing article in the Grauniad that mentions Month Python (no!), leaves out several groups and manages to fit in Nigel Farage (complete with a pint) as a group or something of the kind.
Well, there is Leave,eu founded a little while ago by former UKIP donor Arron Banks. It has an exhausting website (but so many of them are these days because they let all those techie whizz kids run riot), the usual set of semi-accurate facts and an unfortunate image of being linked to UKIP and its campaign that concentrates on one subject: immigration. Being linked to UKIP or perceived to be so will mean that they will not be designated as the lead campaign.
It also means, alas and alack, that the other Brexit campaign, VoteLeave, wants to have nothing to do with it. VoteLeave has a slightly less frenetic website (could someone have been controlling those whizz kids?) and a greater emphasis on people joining the campaign. I presume they use material supplied by Business for Britain.
Here is Guido's first summary of the fight between those two organizations and here is a more recent account (that, necessarily, leaves out the juicier bits) of that feud. And so it has been going on, as many of us know: more heat and ammunition spent on fighting each other than the enemy. It often is like that in politics, especially in campaigning, but this is becoming an embarrassment.
The feuding has now become internal to VoteLeave. I trust everyone who, being a complete geek, follows these matters, noted the attempt to unseat Dominic Cummungs, Campaign Director of VoteLeave and Matthew Elliott, its Chief Executive by a cabal of Tory MPs (egged on by others who stayed nameless for the time being), led by Bernard Jenkin (who thinks that President Putin is not such a bad chap really and was only trying to help the Ukrainians), which seems to have failed. At present Messrs Cummings and Elliott are in place, Mr Jenkin is not returning calls and a still unnamed board members is about to tender his resignation. Things may change by the time I finish writing this blog in which case I shall update it all.
Then we have Grassroots Out (GO), alluded to above as the new kid on the block. They will, incidentally, be having a public meeting in Manchester in February 5; some of this blog's readers might like to go along. Can't do any harm. Here it is being advertised n Twitter and I do hope the link takes you to the right place. They are on Facebook as well.
What is its aim? Well, rather bored with the infighting (and who can blame them) a few MPs (and Nigel Farage who is merely an MEP) got together and decided to form a purely campaigning organization with the intention of doing so constituency by constituency, which is not such a bad idea. Fifty MPs of various parties (not, I presume, the SNP or the Lib-Dims) signed up immediately and there are hopes of more joining. They assure us all (yes, I did talk to the founders) that they have no desire to supplant any of the other organizations, no intention at present to produce their own material but use what the other groups produce and co-ordinate campaigning activity at the grassroots level.
ConHome is supporting them though their first love is VoteLeave, as you would expect.
So is that it? Well, not quite. Another Brexit organization is lurking in the grass somewhere and is ready to be launched soon. They call themselves the Independent Leave-the-EU Alliance and, at present, they are not supported by any MPs because they are also hoping to get some independent ones into Parliament.Or so it would seem but their website is still under construction so one cannot tell for certain.
Where does all this and, possibly, more to come leave this blog? For once in the neutral position or maybe even sitting on the fence. It seems to me to be a waste of time to get involved in all the fighting. I am prepared to work with and for any, some or all of these organizations. Given the shortage of women anywhere near the top of them they ought to welcome that offer but, somehow, I do not think they will. So the blog will go on and will fight its corner despite .....