I believe that in the forthcoming referendum, Britain is likely to leave the EU. I believed it as soon as the referendum was announced, but became convinced when the board of directors was announced, with its director of strategy being Ryan Coetzee, who was personally responsible for the Lib Dems’ massive success at the last general election, when he was paid £110,000 a year as its General Election Director of Strategy, and managed to take the Lib Dems from a paltry fifty-seven seats to a gargantuan eight.
With the rest of the board being a similar bunch of overpaid failures and politicians’ children, I thought our only hope of not leaving the EU, and thus losing what little influence the country still has, any human rights, and first-world status, was for them to at least learn from the mistakes of the AV referendum campaign, and to have a volunteer-driven ground-up campaign, so it wouldn’t matter how incompetent the leadership of the campaign was.
So a few months ago I signed up to volunteer for the Stronger In campaign, in the hope of maybe doing anything useful. However, I am autistic, and one of the ways that manifests itself is in detesting telephone calls (those few of my friends who have my number will know that when you *do* call me it’s often difficult to get me to stop talking, but I am *terrified* of telephone calls interrupting me — it’s one of the more important reasons I refuse to own a mobile phone). The forms wouldn’t let you continue unless you filled in a phone number, so I put it in, but said that I wanted *only* to be contacted by email, and didn’t give them permission to contact me in any other way.
To be fair to them, I *have* since received a whole four emails from them — two surveys about what volunteering I’d like to do, which they haven’t followed up on, and two requests to share things on social media. All four also coming with requests for money to put into their vital survey-ignoring and meme-sharing work.
They *might* have also wanted me to actually do something, as I’ve stated I’d do, but I’ll never know, because the only personal, as opposed to bulk, communication I’ve had from them has been when they’ve telephoned me. The first time, about a month ago, my wife answered the phone, and I told her to tell them not to phone me again. The second time, about two weeks ago, I answered the phone and told them not to phone me again, but to communicate with me by email, as I had asked. The third time, last night, I was woken from a doze, disturbed the dog that was sleeping on my lap, and hobbled painfully and arthritically to the phone, to discover them phoning me yet again. I fear that my request that they not phone me again was phrased rather less politely than it would have been were I not half-asleep and in pain.
And that was going to be the end of my rant about the Stronger In campaign’s complete inability to organise a piss-up in a brewery. Except that in order to check how many emails I have had from them for the paragraph above, I just checked my account, and read one from yesterday.
This email was from Will Straw, the head of the Stronger In campaign whose main personal achievements have been to, as a Labour candidate in the last general election, see the Tories increase their majority by 1200 votes in his constituency; to be removed as the governor of a primary school by Lambeth council because the school wasn’t being run properly; and to have had 50% of his genetic material shoot out of the penis of a former Home Secretary — the latter, rather than his other achievements, being the apparent principal reason for his success in life.
This email from the founder of the Left Foot Forward blog, which contributed so much to Labour’s electoral success in 2010, asked me to share an “infographic” on social media. That infographic praises David Cameron’s renegotiation of the terms on which the UK will be in the EU, and in particular the fact that “migrants” will now have to wait four years before being entitled to claiming any benefits.
I repeat, the campaign to stay in the EU asked me to share an image saying “Limiting migrant access to benefits until they’ve paid in for 4 years” (poor English the image-makers’ own).
Quite apart from the personal consequences to me of sharing that image — I suspect my marriage to an immigrant who is currently claiming benefits for her rather severe disabilities would not last very long after doing so — the tactical stupidity of this is breathtaking. In a fight between “in Europe” and “out of Europe”, playing up myths about immigrants being benefit scroungers will only ever reinforce the ideas of xenophobes, and while not all those who want to leave the EU are xenophobes by any means, I’m pretty sure that all xenophobes want to leave the EU.
So I’m out of this utter shambles. I’ve heard this tune before, when it was the AV referendum and “whatever you do, don’t discuss the new voting system we’re advocating, just hand out leaflets about making MPs work harder and don’t say why it would do that, and whatever you do don’t deviate from the central messaging”. And I’ve heard it when it was “‘Unity, Stability, and Decency’ isn’t a crypto-fascist slogan at all and will definitely appeal to Liberals. Also stick the face of the most despised politician in Britain all over the leaflets — that’s a sure vote-winner. And whatever you do, don’t deviate from the central messaging”.
I am sick, as a volunteer activist, of putting time and energy I don’t have into using a tiny bucket to bail water out of sinking ships while rich imbeciles are being paid triple my wages to fire cannon at the hull of our own ship. I’m sick of being on the right side of the argument but being told to share mealy-mouthed apologies that concede the principle to the other side. And I’m sick of getting phone calls from people who apparently think they’re above the law when it comes to their use of personal data.
So I’m not going to be involved any further with the official Stronger In campaign — not that they’ve yet given me any opportunity to be involved. I’ll be involved in the *LIB DEM* campaigning on the issue, because the Lib Dems as a party have finally, under Tim Farron, rediscovered the campaigning spirit we should have had all along. And if any of the activists I know locally are planning any off-message campaigning, let me know and I’ll do what I can. But I’ll not share UKIP leaflets with UKIP crossed out and “please stay in the EU anyway” scribbled in its place.
There is some small honour in being a lion led by donkeys. But if I kept letting them lead me, I’d be letting them make an ass of me, too.
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