On the Yes to AV campaign, we spent a massive amount of time firefighting against a small but vocal section of our own support. People who wanted to burn their MP in effigy, or have a rally in the centre of their town while likening First Past the Post to the horrors of Nazi Germany; we spent so much time battling against these people that it sapped all the strength we should have been using in fighting the real enemy.
Vote Leave face an even worse situation: their fruitcakes are organised into an actual, alternative organisation, and a generously funded one at that. And yesterday evening, this alternative bunch overstepped the line in a way that we never came close to facing on the AV campaign, even in its darkest hour. The Leave.EU campaign published the personal phone numbers of senior Vote Leave figures on their website, in an article encouraging supporters to call these people and give them a piece of their mind. One of those who had their names put on the website was UKIP’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell. Given Nigel Farage’s heavy involvement in Leave.EU, this demonstrates just how much antipathy exists between Farage and Carswell. It also demonstrates Farage’s personal pettiness as well.
The strangest thing about yesterday’s move is what Leave.EU genuinely hoped to achieve by it. After the referendum, all the Eurosceptics are going to be left with is a divided camp the way it’s going, probably with all of the Tory antis keeping quiet (along with Carswell) while Farage bleats that it was all a Bilderberg stitch up. If (and it is starting to look like when) Leave loses this referendum, if they want to keep the pressure up they need to present a semi-united front at the very least. In fact, the reason they are on course to lose is that they never did this in the first place.
The problem for Vote Leave meanwhile is that they have essentially morphed into Leave.EU over the past week or so anyhow. Everything from them is now is not just on immigration issues, but using immigration in the most in your face xenophobic manner possible. All that stuff about Turkey and the Balkans was unpleasant, whatever your views on Brexit might be. So them complaining about the tactics of Leave.EU no longer makes coherent intellectual sense. It is amazing what a mess they have all allowed themselves to get into.
Instead of fighting amongst themselves and going on and on about Turks flooding Europe like a reverse Crusades, perhaps they could try and make the positive case for Leave over the next month. It isn’t one I think would win me over, but I’d be interested to hear what it sounds like. At least if they do that they could have something to build on. I figure they will actually try this – probably in the final week, when it will be far too late to make any difference, not just to the referendum result but to the future of British Euroscepticism as well.