On the referendum #27: Banks, Russia, conspiracies and Vote Leave

Dear Tory MPs, ministers, donors and peers who supported the January 2016 coup against Vote Leave…

Remember how I and Victoria Woodcock told you repeatedly Banks was not someone who should play a significant role, that his conduct would destroy the credibility of an official campaign, and a ‘unified campaign’ with him would be a ‘total disaster’?

Remember how I and Victoria Woodcock told you repeatedly that he could not be trusted?

Remember how in horrific meeting after horrific meeting you said that we didn’t understand politics and we needed to ‘unite’ and ‘use his social media operation cos he’s got hundreds of thousands of Likes’?

Remember how we clutched our heads and said ‘Facebook doesn’t work like that, he’s spinning you all bullshit, the media will sink the whole campaign if Banks is involved and we refuse to contemplate it’?

Remember how you then tried to engineer the coup, partly also because Banks had told so many of you (cunningly) that the most important factor in winning was ‘you must represent us in the debates on stage with Nigel in front of millions’ and ‘we need your experience, not all these kids Cummings has hired’?

Of course it’s true that the Remain Establishment are doing whatever they can to discredit the referendum, the Observer has invented stuff for two years (including loony conspiracy theories about Banks, me, Mercer, AIQ, Russia etc), and Banks’s actual role in the 10 week campaign was trivial other than causing us embarrassment. Yes it’s true that Banks was a net drag on the result and we’d have won by more if he’d been dropped down one of his defunct mines in summer 2015 and the effort wasted dealing with him had been spent making Vote Leave much stronger earlier. From grassroots to digital, everything would have happened earlier, bigger and better but for that debilitating distraction which meant VL staff had to fight Banks and the entire Establishment simultaneously.

But all that does not change how close you all came to destroying our chance of winning by putting him in charge of the whole thing.

I know you’ll all be wanting to write to those Vote Leave staff who called your bluff and who, unlike you, displayed moral courage under pressure and made many personal sacrifices while you were on the beach or shooting, in order to apologise and thank them personally so here are some of the names of those who told you on 25 January 2016 they would all be out the door in 5 minutes if you persisted and handed power to Banks, and thereby nudged reality down a different branching history:

  • Richard Howell
  • Oliver Lewis
  • Rob Oxley
  • Stephen Parkinson
  • James Starkie
  • Paul Stephenson
  • Jonny Suart
  • Nick Varley
  • Cleo Watson
  • Victoria Woodcock

But for their actions that day, Vote Leave would have been destroyed, Farage and Banks would have run the official campaign with Bill Cash as legal adviser fighting with DD to be on the Today programme, Boris and Gove would have gone on a long holiday rather than flush their reputations down the toilet, Remain would have won 60-40 and Osborne would today be scanning the horizon for the right moment to take over before the 2020 election.

You’re welcome…


Ps. Another branching history… If Cameron and Osborne had simply delayed the vote to 2017, Vote Leave would have ceased to exist in spring 2016, Banks and Farage would have been in charge with Cash/DD et al, and Remain would very likely have cruised to victory last year. Our extreme action on and after 25 January only worked because of the time pressure imposed by the Government. Without it, the consensus was, as people said at the time, ‘we’d have a year to rebuild without you and your crazy ideas’. In history books, luck is always underplayed and the talent of individuals is usually overplayed. As I’ve said many times, Vote Leave could only win because the Establishment’s OODA loops are broken — as the Brexit negotiations painfully demonstrate daily — and they are systematically bad at decisions, and this created just enough space for us to win.

Pps. Although Banks and Leave.EU HQ were hopeless, many of its volunteers did great work and ignored ‘the horror, the horror’ in London among the egomaniacs. Although Farage told them not to help VL post-designation, most of them ignored him and did help us (see comments below).

‘Politics is a job that can really only be compared with navigation in uncharted waters. One has no idea how the weather or the currents will be or what storms one is in for. In politics, there is the added fact that one is largely dependent on the decisions of others, decisions on which one was counting and which then do not materialise; one’s actions are never completely one’s own. And if the friends on whose support one is relying change their minds, which is something that one cannot vouch for, the whole plan miscarries… One’s enemies one can count on – but one’s friends!’ Otto von Bismarck.

‘Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war… Countless minor incidents – the kind you can never really foresee – combine to lower the general level of performance, so that one always falls short of the intended goal.  Iron will-power can overcome this friction … but of course it wears down the machine as well… Friction is the only concept that … corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.  The … army and everything else related to it is basically very simple and therefore seems easy to manage. But … each part is composed of individuals, every one of whom retains his potential of friction… This tremendous friction … is everywhere in contact with chance, and brings about effects that cannot be measured… Friction … is the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult… Finally … all action takes place … in a kind of twilight, which like fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.  Whatever is hidden from full view in this feeble light has to be guessed at by talent, or simply left to chance.’ Clausewitz.


9 thoughts on “On the referendum #27: Banks, Russia, conspiracies and Vote Leave

  1. Too early to say yet, Dominic. When the history books are written we will know a lot more.

    So only a partial mea culpa from me who, at grassroots level, supported LeaveEU. Let’s wait and see the bigger picture in the fullness of time.

    Huge congratulations, however, for Vote Leave’s win.

    I have felt for some time that a bit more generosity is owed to LeaveEU. All our local volunteers moved swiftly to join Vote Leave’s efforts once you had won the designation. In my town about three-quarters of Vote Leave’s manpower came from LeaveEU volunteers who decided to act in a non-partisan fashion.

    Neither should we forget Arron Banks’s and Nigel Farage’s/UKIP’s huge efforts for some years beforehand to push the idea to the forefront of British politics and to force a referendum. I believe you would not have a ref to fight if it hadn’t have been for the massive efforts of those you decry.

    Heartfelt congratulations and thanks for your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should have added — thousands of people helped Leave.EU on the ground and did valuable work.
      I was referring to the management of HQ and their media operation which was bad.
      It is also obviously the case that there would have been no referendum unless Cameron had been frightened by Farage amid the hangover of the omnishambles budget that sunk them in the polls — it is a shame that Farage did not, as he promised he would in early 2015, act as part of a team rather than trying to take over the whole thing.
      Best wishes


    • Ps. It is also the case that many Leave.EU volunteers like you helped VL after designation. However, as you may be aware, UKIP/Farage explicitly told people NOT to do this and actually fired people from UKIP for helping us post-designation. Fortunately, most people ignored him/HQ.


      • Not correct Dominic. I was a UKIP member, a Grassroots Out coordinator, and a VL coordinator (for Weston super Mare). Farage instructed members to assist any leave campaign. Many Kippers unfortunately insisted on handing out only UKIP leaflets, which was bound to alienate some voters – v stupid. There were also stupid street stalls with multi-branding when it should have been only Vote Leave. ( Grassroots Out was phoney, btw, a road-show, and nothing else)


        • Yes Ian, you are correct. I am an officer of my UKIP branch and can confirm that neither UKIP HQ nor Nigel Farage asked or instructed members not to help Vote Leave. Indeed, my branch voted – with no dissension – to campaign as a branch for VL.

          Once that decision had been made we delivered ONLY VL material and dropped all our UKIP branded activities.

          We also provided VL’s local organiser.

          We agreed to run the campaign – branded entirely as VL – in half the wards in the town and we met our obligations. When other VL members fell behind in the wards assigned to them we managed to find extra volunteers to do the work they were unable to do.

          One VL member, a former Labour candidate in the town, subsequently and generously told the local media that VL’s victory in our town was down to UKIP. Very kind, but containing some truth. There are 16,000 students in our town and yet we still won.

          I am not critical of Dominic – I suspect we would not have won without his work of which he should be proud and which was of historic importance – but the historic record needs to be put straight: all of UKIP, LeaveEU and VL did, in fact, work together out in the country, notwithstanding disagreements at the top.


  2. The OODA loop is just a closed loop feedback control system. Or lots of such systems with many different time schedules. All messages are by interrupt or by poll. There is no other method. Govt people are thick and don’t know how to converge on the goal. They have no clue what they are doing; what level they are operating at; how to work things; etc. You need to watch it all the time and get stuck in when it’s drifting off. They are useless.


  3. Any news about the DCMS Committee? I’m hoping you are not chained in a dungeon somewhere guarded by parliamentary enforcers in tights and buckled shoes.


  4. Interesting Channel 4 prog just watched . Why did you and anyone subsequently never press
    not the EU membership fees but that we have a Catastrophic Trade Deficit with EU losing £90 Bill a year . You may wonder why our recovery has had no bounce and we have had 10yrs of Austerity because we are bleeding 5% of our GDP. That is £40+ Bill a year in lost taxes.15 yrs ago the Deficit was £5 Billion . So why is this fact never debated by any side.


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