A large portion of the Conservative Party is up in arms over the idea that £9.3 million of public dosh is set to be spent on a leaflet promoting the idea of Britain remaining in the European Union. Even some very passionate pro-European Tories are decrying the move, saying Cameron may have endangered his premiership by doing this, whatever the outcome on June 23rd. I have a slightly different take on the whole thing: why the hell is the whole enterprise costing so much exactly?
My point of reference is the AV campaign. The Yes campaign spent around a million pounds doing a selected targeting of British households (it equated to about 40% of the country). I recall the day when the electoral returns from both sides were made public, about six months or so after polling day. It contained every invoice, so you could work everything out, if you were that kind of geek on this stuff. I realised how very, very badly the Yes campaign had spent the money on this when I examined the return for the No campaign – they had managed to hit every house in the country twice for about the same price.
Now put aside my lament about how the Yes to AV campaign spent its money – that’s every house, in the country, twice, for around a million quid. I should point out here that the price tag quoted is simply for the printing of the leaflets themselves – the postage was picked up by the public purse. Still, a later FOI I was involved in (seriously, don’t ask) told me that budgeting another million again for what it cost to send the No leaflets out would be generous in covering all possibilities. So, £2 million. To hit every house in the country with a leaflet, twice.
So why is this one costing £9.3 million then? Did the advertising agency who wrote the thing run up a £7 million bar tab in Soho somehow? Then I thought, the numbers I’m quoting are, to be fair, for a one page leaflet. So are the government planning to send out a novella using the advantages of European Union membership as its main plot point to every house in the country? But even that wouldn’t quite cover the costs involved. More like it would be a massive length treatise on the subject. Have George Osborne and Jean-Claude Juncker sat down together and written a 21st century version of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu taking the perils of Brexit as its sujet and then having it sent to every household in the United Kingdom? If so, no wonder the swivel-eyed are up in arms: this could amount to the most politically audacious act perpetrated by an elected official in a western government since Salvador Allende decided he might nationalise a thing or two.
Well then, I look forward to my doorstop on the European Union, as well as the prose of the two authors in question.
“I awoke that evening to wish my mother was still waiting outside my door. I had no choice but to pick up the Financial Times – it told me that the common fishery policy was buggered to all get out. The Economist was no more of a comfort – a run on the Euro in Bratislava. Damn you all to hell, Daniel Hannan!”