Monday, November 08, 2004

The really invisible no-men

With a delicious sense of timing, just as the self-appointed "Vote No" campaign got itself flagged up in the Financial Times and BBC's Radio 4 World at One programme - for its "success" in having persuaded "400 business leaders" to attend a fund raising dinner - its web site went down.

Actually, the site was not so much "down" as disappeared: for a time the URL only got you to the domain registration company. But for the Google "cache", there was no evidence that it had ever existed.

Although the site is back up (click here), few would mourn its permanent absence. The prospect of this lacklustre outfit hoovering up all the available funds has not been greeted with unalloyed joy by other campaigning groups. Many are feeling the pinch as the invisible no-men soak up funds for their cinema ads and other jolly japes.

The greater problem, however, is that while Neil O'Brien, so-called "campaign director" of "Vote No", claims that their success is a clear sign that industry is becoming increasingly eurosceptic, all the indications are that neither business leaders nor Neil O’Brien have the first idea of what being Eurosceptic really means.

Not only are the bulk of so-called "business leaders" politically naïve the self-appointed "Vote No" campaign, in going for the business fraternity, is holding itself hostage to fortune with its woolly "love Europe, hate the Constitution" message that is neither intellectually credible nor honest, simply to keep these babes in arms on-side.

While this may have been a useful stratagem for the fight against the single currency – where the business view was important – the EU constitution is not primarily a business issue. There is no logic, therefore, in affording business interests a leading role in that campaign. This is an issue for the whole of the population and the lead should come from the people, not the business fraternity in what is increasingly seen as an exclusive "top down" campaign.

However, as happened with the NE referendum, it looks like the "glory boys" will be looking to sweep up the brownie points and the money, which is why they are courting the "business leaders". Meanwhile, the real campaigners will live on a shoe-string, ignored by the "above the line" funders who are more impressed by posh accents and pin-stripe suits than they are track-record.

But it is these campaigners – the really invisible no-men – who will win the battle, leaving the others to prance and posture and then write their reports on how they really won it.

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