For the last couple of days it has been my intention to close this blog, following my annoyance and despair at the extent of support for the reprehensible Godfrey Bloom; and the continuing ill informed and factually inaccurate assertions made by people in the comments, who nominally share my determination to extract the UK from the EU.
For now, while I consider whether there is any value in carrying on with the blog, there is one important issue that should be brought to wider attention.
Some readers may be familiar with the name Matthew Elliott. He is a Conservative strategist, the co-founder and former Chief Executive of the TaxPayers Alliance, founder of Big Brother Watch and he led the No to AV campaign that saw the Lib Dem effort to force the alternative vote system defeated in a low turnout referendum alongside other elections.
Last week, Elliott’s latest campaign vehicle, Business for Britain, got a mention in the Daily Mail, which reported that:
Tory Eurosceptics will challenge David Cameron to toughen his line on renegotiations with Brussels by calling for the UK to pull out of the single market altogether.
Up to 100 MPs are expected to back a tough manifesto to be released in November by a new pressure group called Business For Britain.
The group is run by leading Tory strategist Matthew Elliott, who ran the No To AV campaign against Lib Dem proposals for electoral reform in 2011 and is widely expected to take the helm of a No campaign in an in-out referendum promised by Mr Cameron for 2017.
The interesting – and concerning – bit here is the last paragraph and the assertion that Elliott is widely expected to lead the ‘No’ (or Out if you prefer) campaign in a prospective EU Referendum.
Why would this be a problem? On the face of it Elliott seems phenomenally qualified to lead such a campaign. The answer can be found in Business for Britain’s own manifesto and an article written by Elliott back in July this year for City AM, in which he wrote:
BUSINESS for New Europe’s manifesto – A Europe That Works – is a useful contribution to the debate on Britain’s membership of the EU, a debate that has often been dominated by political, rather than business voices. But the assumption that the UK’s wealth and job creators would seek to preserve Britain’s place in the EU at all costs has already been dispelled with the launch of our own campaign – Business for Britain – supported by over 750 business leaders, and calling for a fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership.
The EU Referendum ‘No’ campaign is a vehicle for people who wish to see the UK leave the European Union. The clue is in the nature of the prospective referendum – in or out. Which begs an all-important question that I now ask…
How could Matthew Elliott lead a ‘No’ campaign for people who want to leave the EU, when his latest venture is an organisation making arguments only for reform of the EU, not withdrawal from it?
Elliott is a favourite son of the Conservative Party, which wants to re-pay him for helping defeat the Lib Dem AV campaign, The Conservative Party is an entity that describes itself as Eurosceptic but aggressively fights any suggestion that UK should leave the EU, instead they believe it should be reformed from the inside. A state of affairs that leaves Brussels as this country’s supreme government.
So it stands to reason that Elliott is being tipped for the role of leading a ‘No’ campaign, because the Tories know he favours reform, not withdrawal. Any effort to install Elliott as the ‘No’ campaign leader would be a cynical effort to steal a referendum. No football team would turn up to a match and name one of the opposing team’s players as its captain and put him in goal. Putting Elliott in charge of a ‘No’ campaign would be no different to that folly.
Regardless of his campaigning credentials, no Eurosceptic should be fooled into accepting Elliott as the leader of a ‘No’ campaign. The Electoral Commission must not be allowed to hand control of the ‘No’ / ‘Out’ campaign to a Europlastic who wants to stay firm in the EU.
It would be nice to see UKIP, the UK’s only national political party that advocates withdrawal from the EU, speaking out on this important issue. Naturally the followers of the Farage cult will complain they would if only the media would take notice of them. Well, it doesn’t seem like Farage has any trouble getting the ear of the Guardian’s editorial team and they do have a website on which such messages – if they actually existed – could be shared.