The Sunday Telegraph reports that a group of businessmen, including Arron Banks (the UKIP donor), plan a £20 million advertising campaign in September as part of an effort to win the referendum on the EU.
Contrary to some phone calls I’ve had, this is not an example of ‘Eurosceptic infighting’.
Now, there are no spending limits as the Bill has not gone through Parliament. If a group of rich businessmen want to use this period to spend money persuading people of the problems of the EU and how Britain can do better, good luck to them. The important question is: does their campaign have the right messages so it is persuasive?
The Exploratory Committee that was announced last week is not the NO campaign. As I explained on Friday (here), it is a vehicle to coordinate discussions, raise money etc so that a professional NO campaign can exist. I am talking to people about how this can best be done, raising money, and trying to persuade appropriate people to leave their jobs to do this campaign.
As I have said hundreds of times over the past few weeks and will say thousands of times in the next few months, in order to win the referendum many people with very different views will have to find ways to cooperate. Libertarians, socialists and others have to find common ground. Also, all sorts of people and groups will, quite reasonably, want to do their own thing.
It is understandable that in the absence of an official NO campaign, motivated businesspeople are looking to do useful things. My concern is building the foundations of an official NO campaign in the right way such that it can grow into what will be an unprecedented organisational network over the next year. Scale and complexity require organisational innovations.
Greece, the euro, prediction, accountability
On a different subject, Greece and the euro is much in the news… When I was working on the campaign against Britain joining the euro, we did many debates/events/TV shows etc with people like Adair Turner, Ken Clarke, Heseltine, Peter Mandelson, Chris Patten et al.
Our businessmen, such as Stanley Kalms and Simon Wolfson, argued that the euro had been badly constructed and would cause problems for the existing members particularly Greece and Ireland. Turner, Clarke et al breezily wafted away such fears and said we would be proved wrong.
Almost the only extended conversation I have had with Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s ‘chief of staff’, was in a restaurant around 2002 when, I think, he was working for Ashdown. He of course said that the euro was a great idea, would work out brilliantly, and we would inevitably join. He is leading the No.10 renegotiation team.
As people who follow this blog know, one of the themes I have explored a lot is the issue of predictions in politics. Physics is so successful because it has an architecture for correcting errors of prediction. Politics has lacked this. Tetlock’s Good Judgement Project (with IARPA) is the most interesting project I know of to inject rigour into the issue of political prediction in order to improve performance radically.
Now that a referendum is coming, Clarke, Heseltine and others are all over the BBC making predictions about the ‘chaos’ and ‘loss of jobs’ that would come from leaving the EU. Because politics does not operate on the basis of being held accountable for predictions, they are almost never asked anything like – ‘but given your false predictions on the euro, why should we have confidence in your predictions on the EU, perhaps you simply have an emotional attachment to the EU that is not susceptible to evidence?’ In politics, ‘Bayesian updating’ is not fashionable particularly when moral signalling is so strong. Many in the BBC see the EU debate, as they saw the euro debate, simply as ‘internationalists v racists’ which makes them even less inclined to challenge people like Ken Clarke who is routinely allowed to make factually wrong assertions without challenge on the Today programme. I blogged about this in an earlier blog in this series HERE.
In comments below, please leave the best examples of quotes from the likes of Clarke, Turner, Mandelson etc along the lines of ‘don’t worry about Greece and Ireland, the euro will be great for them’.