For Remain and for a referendum
London4Europe Committee member and former senior civil servant Michael Romberg is glad that Britain for Europe has launched a Remain campaign separate from the People’s Vote. We need both. They need to work together, not be rivals.
A companion article is called: A march is not a campaign.
It is great news that Britain for Europe and several other pro-EU groups have launched March for Change – an explicitly pro-EU campaign starting with a big march on 20 July. That complements and reinforces the People’s Vote programme of rallies and 12 October march. The PV programme complements and reinforces the July march - and the next Remain march; and so on until we have the referendum on the statute book, when the two campaigns can merge into one great Remain campaign.
Remain is the point
The referendum is a mechanism, a means to an end. We need it. But it is just a device for achieving something real: our participation in the great European peace, freedom, democracy and friendship project. That is actually what we want.
Sure, if Leave win the referendum I will feel that at least the decision has been made on the basis of a plan and good information. It will reconcile me a bit. But I do actually wish Remain to win.
A Remain campaign would support the People’s Vote campaign
Some of our strategists believe that if People’s Vote was associated with a Remain campaign then some MPs would shy away from backing a referendum because they feel they must be seen by their constituents to honour the referendum. We have three responses:
First, the rational case for the referendum. 2016 was a vote on an idea. Now we need to examine the plan. Who better to do that review than the same electorate as launched the process? Our stance as Remainers does not invalidate the argument of principle.
Second, we can appeal to Leavers. They have become radicalised and call for No-Deal. It really is not a good policy, though not for the reasons Remainers normally give. But that is an argument we have to win, not ignore. So we can say to Leavers: Parliament will not back no-deal – why not call for it to be an option in the referendum?
Third, let’s be realistic. Who does not think that the People’s Vote campaign is a Remain front? It puts out some anti-Brexit material and never any pro-Brexit material. Its leading figures are Remainers. We have all the disadvantages of guilt by association without the advantages of actually running a Remain campaign.
A Remain campaign would enhance the call for a referendum. It worked for UKIP – the most successful political movement in recent British history. They campaigned for Leave and a referendum; an objective and a means.
The two campaigns have different targets
Fundamentally, the campaign for a referendum is a campaign addressed to MPs about legislation. We talk to voters in order for them to pressure their MPs.
The campaign to Remain is addressed to voters as the primary decision-makers in a referendum.
Moreover, we look beyond the referendum. It does not really matter whether voters support a referendum reluctantly; it will be over the day after. But we need voters to back Remain enthusiastically because we wish to settle the question and heal the country. That needs a different style: emotions as well as rationality.
It needs a unified command, separate from People’s Vote
We need to learn the lessons from the successes and otherwise of both People’s Vote and Stronger IN. How best to make use of the grassroots, how to be open to ideas about strategy and tactics, how to learn, how to generate enthusiasm, how to integrate the components into a coherent plan.
All the national pro-EU bodies should come together to support both of these campaigns to make them truly joint efforts of the whole movement. The governance of each needs to be transparent and effective at holding managers to account and securing unity and clarity of purpose.
The Campaigns need to play nicely together
We cannot afford the clash of personal or organisational egos. Sure, there will be differences of emphasis and disputes over how to proceed. There always are. But we have to remember that we all want the same end.
We need to galvanise our volunteers
This great volunteer movement can bring a million onto the streets. But it is typically dependent on half a dozen activists in a borough. No surprise really – who wishes to campaign for a process?
No-one says “I really would like to sit in the departure lounge at Gatwick”; we say “I’d like to go on holiday”.
Remain is what our people believe in. Remain is what we wish to campaign for. Remain would liberate our energies.
The right Remain campaign
Saying how bad Brexit is just re-runs Project Fear. Sure, we have added some facts. But it’s still not going to work any better.
To settle the question we need the result from 1975 (67:33) and the turnout from 2016 (72%). So we have to convert six million Leave voters to Remain. That shows us the ambition we need.
Fundamentally the Remain campaign needs to be about hope and the European project. We need to run on our shared European identity, on why pooling sovereignty gets us more of what we want, on how freedom of movement is a great plus that brings people with a common European heritage closer together.
Conclusion: now is the time
The best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is now.
Let’s all campaign for Remain and for a referendum.
The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.