Even though we now have a date for the referendum, Brexit still looms someway in the distance for most. Those preparing for Brexit, however, are at risk of exhausting themselves and the tolerance of the public before a single vote is cast with muddled and inconsistent messaging.
The plethora of ‘out’ groups are jostling for position as the official campaign organisation with all of the skill and nuance of a homecoming queen election. Coups, surprise announcements and the unedifying tussle between Lord Tebbit and Lord Powell over Thatcher’s endorsement certainly offer a lively contrast to the damp squib that was the Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum in 2011.
Unless a frontrunner emerges soon though, the Electoral Commission could refuse to designate an official campaign group, limiting the ‘out’ campaigns spending to £700,000 each, rather than £7 million. And even if they do come together, convincing the public with a united message looks set to be a challenge on a number of fronts.
The sheer range of bodies looking to take the lead is unprecedented. Vote Leave, Leave.UK, Grassroots Out, and Better Off Out are among the larger groups. With such a broad range of voices it’s hard to identify a unifying theme or message that can be communicated clearly to the public.
The GO Movement was launched as an umbrella organisation to unite Leave.UK and Grassroots Out, to apply for designation and fulfilling the Electoral Commission’s requirements for a cross party campaign. However, the wheeling out of George Galloway as the GO Movement’s ‘special guest’ this weekend did not land well in the bid for cross party appeal. A number of attendees walked out of the event as he stepped onto the stage, including UKIP’s Tim Acre MEP, right wing journalist Raheem Kassam together with other activists.
This desperation to fulfil the cross party requirements of the official campaign will see some unlikely bedfellows to try and unite a vote. Galloway likened his relationship with Farage as that of Churchill and Stalin although it’s not clear to which figure the cigar smoking socialist was aligning himself.
Some of the other characters courting controversy include key donor, Aaron Banks who doesn’t hold his punches, reportedly by labelling sole UKIP MP, Douglas Carswell, as ‘mental’ and ‘autistic’. Tory Bernard Jenkins MP’s attempted putsch was foiled in January, while Labour veteran Kate Hoey MP quit Vote Leave in disgust at the churlish antics to join Grassroots Out with infamous Eurosceptic Conservative Peter Bone MP.
More establishment figures, such as newly revealed Brexit trump card BoJo alongside Michael Gove will certainly relish the chance to ruffle some feathers as well.
If GO Movement is able to bring all these major groups under one umbrella, trying to stop schisms between the factions still looks to be nigh on impossible. Each group holds a slightly different perspective, in terms of both what the EU means to the UK now, and what a Europe-free Britain could look like.
While ‘out’ campaigners are undoubtedly energised inwardly, outwardly the perception is both muddled and disorganised. If they are not able to devise clear messages, to detract from their prominent internal machinations, it will be nigh on impossible to persuade the public to take a giant leap into the unknown.
Those one in five who have not yet decided will need to be persuaded of a credible future vision and whichever side can convincingly provide this will be the trusted party on 23 June.
Kate Turner, Account Manager