Countering EU Spin, Fear and Negative Campaigning

The use of spin, (hyperbole, selective information, dubious comparisons, endless simplistic repetition etc.) and deceit to mislead, and negative political campaigning, that almost exclusively attacks opponents to induce fear or distract the electorate, says a great deal about the perpetrators. In particular such behaviour shows that they have contempt for truth, voters, and democracy which exist only to be manipulated to serve their own ends. It also demonstrates intellectual laziness and a lack of competence at delivering high standards of performance for the People; results usually speak louder than empty or shallow words. They have also ignored or discounted the effects of such behaviour on performance of government and enterprise both of which work better and more efficiently if elements of professional integrity, trust, honesty, and self-imposed restraint are present.

Unfortunately, in the forthcoming referendum on membership of the EU there is a high probability the staying IN the EU camp, with its plentiful political and ruling class representation, will make extensive use of these methods. After all, these techniques have been shown to work in politics and can cover up the weak case for continuing EU membership, with its obvious and painful disadvantages, by resorting to shallow fallacies, misleading the electorate and spreading concocted fear of leaving. The following are suggested as the basis for specific and more detailed countermeasures that could be available to the more poorly financed and resourced OUT campaign:

Verification and Logical Analysis – The use of spin, deceit and negative campaigning can only work if they are accepted as being true or reliable, that the electorate can have confidence in them, probably through impartial verification from elsewhere, experience etc. Where this empirical verification does not exist, or can be challenged, then use of such tactics will undermine their proponents, especially where they have a previous record of similar less than reputable methods.

Spin by its very nature is superficial. Analysis, drilling down into the detail, comparison with a wider view or actual evidence can reveal its shortcomings, contradictions and unreality.

Real raison d’être – Where the ends are thought to justify the less than reputable means, it would be helpful to understand and expose the real motives or reasons; vested interests in particular. For the professional politician it could be a case of putting ideology, party, promotion and power before principles and people. For Big Business, especially those of the ruling establishment, it could be a case of taking a very narrow, even monopolistic, self-interested or historical, perspective which does not consider effects on the whole economy or wider national interest; underlying feelings of patriotism, national identity and unique heritage may also be weak in an internationalised ‘Power Set’.

Spin side-effects – Spin negates the need to deliver actual results and restricts the ability to analyse and to think outside the ‘spin-box’; sloppy, vague and confusing language undermines clear, logical thought and rational ideas. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote about political language being used to deceive, conceal the true horror and give substance to pure wind. He also pointed out its limiting or negative effect on ideas ‘English …… becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’ The side effects can be serious although the connection to spin etc. is subtle.

Fear mitigation – The positive case of leaving the moribund EU is strongly advantageous and as a sovereign country we would be better placed to mitigate problems and risks as they arise, in some cases in voluntary co-operation with others. Remaining within the EU is the riskier and constraining proposal. Over the years the EU’s institutions, Eurocrats and political actors have shown repeatedly that they are unable to act quickly and appropriately in our interests, for example, on economic, security and migration issues; it is all a slow, cumbersome, disjointed, secretive and attenuating process. They have also created serious otherwise avoidable problems, such as the common currency, the Euro and bureaucracy. Giving the EU carte blanche over us is ‘throwing caution to the EU wind’.

Sham and Distraction Alert – Expose the reality, exaggerations, unsupported claims, misrepresentations and other efforts to create something of substance out of nothing more than spin. Great claims for renegotiation success are likely to be nothing more than shams of little worth. Distractions are likely to be used to divert attention from the positive case for leaving, continuing EU crises and the really important issues facing our country and us individually.

The EU Dream (and nightmare) – The ‘devil is in the detail’ of any holistic EU-centric vision of the future, in particular the practicalities of delivery and its supposed benefits. The detail from Europhiles could display ‘pie in the sky’ naïve emptiness, cliché and muddled, narrow thinking. How will an EU-future facilitate individual liberty, democracy, justice (including the rule of law and social justice) and free enterprise based prosperity? So far the EU hasn’t changed its ‘dead hand’ ways, which are holding back our traditionally hugely talented and dynamic country.

The Positive Leaving Case – The most powerful antidote to negative fear-inducing spin is, probably, cogent presentation of the positive case for leaving the EU and the status quo, for example Selling the Dream – the Case for Leaving the EU now and A Simple Approach for Considering EU Membership.

Olive Branch – Conversions from the fanatical or fantasist IN camp are more likely and easier when treated with magnanimity and acceptance. Reconciliation will obviously strengthen our country’s capabilities in the years ahead and there are many causes that can unite our diverse opinions and backgrounds.

Our country deserves much better than cynical machinations and manipulations by our rulers determined to retain EU membership. It is a truly worthy cause to help liberate the aspirations and great potential of a free, sovereign, democratically governed people.

Photo by russellstreet

Spreading Alarm and Despondency amongst British Expats

Whilst we know that politicians are not on oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they are not entitled to misinform people either recklessly or deliberately. This is particularly true for those who speak from a position of apparent experience or authority which lends weight to their views.

You would expect a lawyer and former Crown Law Officer to be aware of this responsibility. Yet Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General and a practising barrister did not live up to this standard.

In the run-up to the election, the Guardian reported him saying that 2 million UK citizens working in the EU would become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain were to leave the EU. This is a massive untruth. People who have acquired rights of residence will still have those rights even if the EU treaties cease.

They are known as “acquired rights”, “executed rights” or “vested rights”. They are so firmly established that they have acquired the status of “customary law” which means that they stand as a fundamental principle of international law, not needing a specific treaty to confirm them. There is even a parliamentary briefing note about it, so Mr. Grieve has no excuse.

On 26 May I was surprised to see a report on RT (Russia Today) giving credence to this scare in a report about worried British expatriates living in France. Now RT is generally a far more sceptical reporter of EU affairs than the BBC but they seemed to have swallowed the British government story hook, line and sinker. There were some very distressed people with established businesses, fearful that they would be forced to leave and preparing to put their homes on the market.

We can expect much more of this style of panic mongering from the British government as the date for the British EU referendum approaches and it was surprising that RT had unwittingly stoked up unnecessary distress for these people.

There is a perfectly feasible way for the UK to leave the political structure of the EU and retain its trading and other relationships without any significant disruption. You can read it here and can listen to a half hour introduction it here

Photo by James O’Gorman

Everything to play for

With a few recent opinion polls suggesting support for withdrawal from the EU has fallen in the last few months, a report in the Independent summarising a recent poll by Survation offers some hope. Some 70% of the electorate have yet to make up their minds and the enthusiasm of Tony Blair to play a prominent role in the “yes” or “in” campaign is likely to be a great boost to his opponents as he is seen as so untrustworthy in matters relating to the EU (is he trustworthy about anything at all? Well, that is another question!)

This does mean that the barrage of horror stories about the dangers of withdrawal, with one chief executive after another being wheeled out in support of staying in, have not convinced over 2/3 of UK voters. The tactics of fear, uncertainly and doubt have so far not been as effective as the “in” camp have hoped. Our fellow-countrymen (and women) are obviously still open to a well-presented, bullet-proof argument in favour of withdrawal. In short, there is everything to play for, even though time is short. To quote Dr Richard North, we have to present the EU as a problem, offer the solution and paint a glowing picture of the outcome. If we can do this, our opponents will have few arguments with which to beat us down

Photo by The hills are alive*

Peer highlights fear tactics used in 1975 referendum on 40th anniversary

Don’t be influenced by the “lies and fear” tactics used in 1975 and being used again
 
The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has commemorated the 40th anniversary of the original referendum on British membership of the Common Market with some strongly worded comments on the tactics used in 1975 and suggested that similar tactics are already being used to frighten voters in the forthcoming referendum.
Lord Stoddart, who has campaigned against membership of the Common Market/EU since the 1960s, said:  “It is forty years since the original referendum on Common Market membership but the memories are still fresh.  The British people were coerced into remaining in what was, in truth, a budding new country called ‘Europe’.  Lies and fear were the weapons used 40 years ago and we should not be fooled again. We were even told in a Government leaflet that the threat of a single currency had been removed!  Never in the history of British politics have so many lies been told for so little purpose.
“The very same sort of siren voices we listened to then are, even now, already at work attempting to frighten voters into thinking that Britain would be badly damaged by leaving. The truth is that we would thrive outside of the backward, corporatist and failing organisation that is now called the European Union.  It is the only Continent suffering from a continuous decline in trade.  
“We need to free ourselves from its suffocating red tape, regain control of our own borders and take back the right to negotiate our own trade agreements across the world and in the process save ourselves £20 billion gross (£13.5 billion net), per annum.  This would leave us free to invest in the NHS, British agriculture and many other things this country badly needs.
“In the interests of reclaiming our democracy and to ensure a decent economic future for our children and grandchildren, we must throw off the yoke of Brussels and vote to leave the EU in the next referendum. To do anything else is to wave the white flag and surrender our country.”

Peter Troy RIP

We regret to announce the death of Peter Troy, a member of CIB, a long serving campaigner for British independence from the EU and a talented publicist. Peter suffered a severe heart attack from which there appeared to be some hope of recovery. In spite of the  very best ministrations of the hospital, the hope proved vain. He died surrounded by his family and loved ones, to whom we extend our sympathy. Members who attended our AGM on 11 April will recall his spirited motion in favour of urgent preparations to fight the then expected referendum on EU membership. The motion was passed unanimously.

Recently he was perhaps best known for his film “The Norway Option”. He explained his thinking behind it in the article which follows. Lord Tebbit praised it highly because it gave a clear pointer to an amicable and orderly  way out of the EU and “it doesn’t shout”.

“I was so annoyed at David Cameron’s misrepresentation of The Norway Option that I made a film to set the record straight” says Publicist and anti EU campaigner Peter Troy.

“I think it is worth understanding what leaving the European Union would involve”, said David Cameron back in January 2013. “You can be like Norway”, he said, “and you can have full access to the single market but you have absolutely no say over the rules of that market”.

Mr Cameron was speaking at a lunch organised by the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Westminster saying he was in favour of staying in the EU because of its single market. But, also he said, if the UK pulled out of the EU but wanted to keep the advantages of the single market it would be reduced to the standing of Norway, which has to abide by faxed orders from Brussels’ bureaucrats.

“In Norway”, the Prime Minister said “they sometimes call it ‘Government by fax’ because you are simply taking the instructions about every rule in the single market from Brussels without any say on what those rules are”.

On watching the presentation live on early morning TV I despaired, it was utter tosh – I was amazed that this  tired and inaccurate old canard which has been running for years, first raised by Europhile Norwegian politicians who were trying to get their sceptical people to agree to joining the EU was being repeated by our Prime Minister.  It didn’t work with the canny Norwegian’s, but that was not stopping Mr Cameron trying it on in the UK and of course the media – particularly the BBC – were reporting Mr Cameron’s words with zero criticism or understanding of the bigger implications.

Recalling that political scientist Dr Richard North who co-authored the definitive history of the EU with journalist Christopher Booker had written several times about ‘The Norway Option’ back in 2008 on his high profile EU Referendum blog site, I called him to discuss David Cameron’s curious statement. The typically long and detailed conversation with the anti EU campaigner concluded in my being told that the good Doctor was embarking on a fresh paper on behalf of The Bruges Group on the very subject of The Norway Option.

The paper was published early in 2013. The author, as was to be expected, boldly set out  the case for a desirable exit settlement should the UK decide to leave the EU. One of those options is for the UK government to apply to join the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). This is known as the “Norway Option” because Norway is the largest nation within the EFTA/EEA group which also includes Iceland and Liechtenstein.

As Dr North expands in the Bruges Group publication, staying within the EEA is an attractive proposition as it protects the UK’s position in the Single Market and thus renders an exit economically neutral. Such an option accords with often repeated Government objectives of maintaining access to the single market.

Crucially, the essence of this is that most of the single market rules are negotiated at global and regional level; EEA/EFTA experts and representatives participate in over 500 committees and expert groups involved in what is known as “decision shaping” at this level.

The 48 page Bruges Group publication is a fine work though the subject I decided required a much wider audience than those who would read the booklet. What was needed I soon concluded was a film in documentary style. This was to be a film that clearly the BBC would not make nor was it likely that other broadcasters would either – it was not a question of politically correct balance but of hard solid facts of what exactly is The Norway Option. Within a month of reading Richard North’s draft paper I had assembled a professional film making team comprising of BBC freelance journalist Tony Baker and experienced award winning film cameraman and editor Ken Slater – both of whom operate from the North-East of England.

After first assessing in detail, on film, whether the UK outside the EU would be a disaster I, together with Richard North and film crew with support staff, travelled to Oslo to shoot the film of the book written by Richard North – The Norway Option. On location in Oslo we discovered a prosperous happy country at ease with itself and an economy that is quite capable of thriving at arms-length from the EU, yet very much a part of the Single European Market.

In a documentary style ‘voyage of discovery’ presentation we met and interviewed many people including an independent farmer, an academic, as well as political campaigner Helle Hagenau from the’ No to the EU’campaign who told us how much better off Norway is outside the EU. A sentiment that is echoed by Anne Tvinnereim, who at the time of filming was State Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Development. Anne ,as well as a recognised up and coming star in Norway’s Centre Party ,is a recognised expert on EU affairs.The party was instrumental in winning the ‘no’ campaign in the 1994 referendum.

Two decades on, Anne disputes David Cameron’s claim that Norway is without influence in the EU, even though her country is not able to vote on EEA – Single Market legislation – to which her country is bound. As Anne explains in an interview with Richard and myself in the ministry’s Oslo offices: “Most of the politics is done long before new regulation gets to the voting stage. Anne further explains that the UK would be very welcome in EFTA, an organisation Norway had joined in order to be a part of the Single Market. Whilst this arrangement had brought many economic advantages Anne and her colleagues agreed there were concerns about the democratic deficit in the relationship with the EU.

Speaking to a senior Norwegian Official the production team also learnt that Norway is fully engaged at the global level where an increasing number of trade rules are agreed either under the aegis of the WTO or the United Nations. We heard that when it comes to rule-making for International trade the ‘top tables’ are progressively moving out of Brussels. Where her economic interests are concerned, Norway – unlike the UK – has her own seat at those tables.

As well as examining in detail how self-government has allowed Norway to prosper we also travelled to the site of the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon where the Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the heads of the EU member states. Against this splendid Portuguese backdrop Richard and I discussed how Article 50 of the Treaty defines the ‘exit route’ for member states; an often misunderstood opportunity.

The Norway Option DVD documentary story line is intermixed with the theme of a news presenter Jan Leeming reading the future news from a radio studio. The scene is set from the breaking news of the announcement of an in/out referendum to the result of the out vote and the Prime Minister’s announcement to Parliament of the commencement of withdrawal from the EU by means of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.  

The DVD production distributed marketed in conjunction with The Bruges Group was launched at a meeting of the group at the Royal Overseas League last November. As Robert Oulds, Bruges Group Director said:” We admire Norway’s democratic model and their economic success. If being like Norway would be a disaster as some predict then we in the UK cannot have to much of it”.

The film The Norway Option which is introduced by Lord Tebbit is available in DVD format   CIB has copies of the DVD available for showing to meetings of independence campaigners.

Turning up the volume on what?

Sir Mike Rake, President of the Confederation of British Industry has urged his members to “turn up the volume” in support of the UK’s membership of the EU in a speech at the organisation’s annual dinner, according to a report in the Guardian today.

This is the latest development in a week which saw Deutsche Bank threaten to relocate part of its business from London if the UK leaves the EU while Lord Bamford, the Chairman of JCB, said that the UK had “nothing to fear” from withdrawal. Confused? Perhaps you are, but not as confused as the CBI’s President and the many other business leaders who have spoken out in favour of continuing UK membership arguing that we face “a choice between openness and isolation…. between shaping the future or retreating into the past.”

What these businessmen are concerned about is tariff-free access to the rest of the EU and its common regulatory standards – in other words, the single market. Do they care about the political dimension to the EU? – in other words, that its goal is the creation of a federal superstate? Most unlikely. In other words, therefore, if they can be convinced that access to the single market could be preserved if we withdrew from the EU but remained in the EEA and re-joined EFTA (the so-called “Norway Option”) until a longer-term relationship could be agreed, their concerns would be answered.

Let us be clear, the “Norway Option” is not an ideal long-term relationship for the UK. However, its most eloquent advocates have studied the issue of withdrawal and how best to achieve it over a period of many years. If there was a “silver bullet” which, at a stroke, could enable us to move instantaneously and seamlessly to a simple free trade relationship with the EU with full access to the remaining 27 member states, they would prefer this approach. However, such attempts to devise such a scenario have all contained serious flaws, which would result in job losses and worse. Our aircraft would not be able to fly in EU airspace if we just pulled out, nor would our aircraft have rights to use air space and landing slots in third countries under the present treaties, negotiated on our behalf by the EU.

However, it is the best way to reassure voters who are understandably nervous after being bombarded with scare stories . Trade would not be affected while we would escape from a political project with which we have never felt comfortable. Furthermore, regaining our independent seat at the World Trade Organisation and other international bodies involved in devising common global standards for goods would enable us – and thus our business leaders – to have far more clout in determining what these standards should be. At present we have no voice at these “top tables”and have to go along with the “common position” of the EU Commission which is more responsive to French and German requirements than to ours.

This is hardly the “retreat into the past” or “isolation” which Sir Mike Rake fears. It actually gives us a bigger voice on the world stage and brings us closer to where the real decisions are increasingly made these days. We can shape the future far better outside the EU and it is high time that the bigwigs in the CIB educated themselves on the reality of international trade. We are also free to reject new Directives. Whilst Labour politicians here bewailed the privatisation of Royal Mail, independent Norway simply declined to enforce the Third Postal Directive and kept its mail deliveries as a public service. We could do the same.

 

 

Photo by webtreats