Funny Business Abroad. (the Euro Debate)

By Stern, Stefan | New Statesman (1996), May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Funny Business Abroad. (the Euro Debate)


Stern, Stefan, New Statesman (1996)


The most leaked memo-writer in the history of British politics received another breakfast-time shock on Monday morning, thanks to a Daily Telegraph splash on "Blair's euro battle plan". The research for GGC/NOP, the research firm led by Philip Gould and Stanley Greenberg, was available to all for just 50 pence-rather less than the firm's usual fee.

Although the pollsters' overall message was that a euro referendum was winnable, there were several caveats -- not least the warning that Labour's "core voters" are deeply sceptical. The Yes campaign will have to pay close attention to them.

"This involves targeting working-class, Labour-voting Sun readers, who are seen as particularly resistant to the blandishments of the 'Yes' campaign," the gurus wrote. "Like it or not, the 'Yes' is aligned with the educated, cosmopolitan and cultural elites and the 'No' is associated with working-class, less-educated Britain."

The No campaign seems to have drawn a similar conclusion. In anticipation of an eventual referendum, the No-sayers have decided to sway popular opinion by sending in the clowns.

A 90-second commercial -- part of a [pounds sterling]1m summer offensive-will appear in cinemas next month. It stars familiar showbiz names: Harry Enfield, Rik Mayall and Vic Reeves will all argue against Britain joining the single currency.

"The lesson of the Danish vote [which registered a convincing Nej in September 2000] is that people are looking for something a bit different in a referendum," says George Eustice, the No campaign spokesman. "Politicians are not enough to swing it on their own. The Yes camp will have a lot of establishment figures on their side-we need a people-based campaign."

The pro-euro Britain in Europe (BiE) team is a little less starry-eyed, at least for now. "We always said the No campaign were a bunch of comedians," was the immediate response of Simon Buckby, the BiE campaigns director. Comparisons with Luvvies for Labour, and in particular Cool Britannia -- that shameful time when ministers toasted rock stars at No 10 while backbenchers were whipped through the lobbies to support benefit cuts for lone parents -- will be avoided. …

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