Tonight at 8.25 pm, BBC2 is showing a documentary on the 1975 referendum, with director Michael Cockerill recalling ‘the wily tactics that won round a sceptical nation’.
A taster is offered in today's Independent, Cockerill giving some idea how the dirty tricks department worked. He writes:
From the start, it was clear that there was nothing like a balance of power between the two sides. The "yes" campaign was well staffed, well funded and well organised and consisted of like-minded people from the centre ground of the three main parties. The "no"s by came largely from the left wing of the Labour Party, the right wing of the Tories and the far fringes beyond - from the National Front to the Communist Party. And they had minimal resources.The campaign organised plane-loads of pro-European speakers from all parties across the country to be flown for briefings by top level Eurocrats, chartering a series of 100-seater jet planes from British Caledonian airlines. Nearly 1,000 were given the treatment.
Asked where the money had come from, the organiser admitted: "From the European Commission: it was a sort of special dispensation. I don't know how they fixed it, because one didn't ask too much. One just said 'Thank you very much' and got on with organising it."
And Alastair McAlpine, the campaign treasurer, later to become Tory Party treasurer, describes the tactics:
The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-marketeers as unreliable people - dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path. It wasn't so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody that proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.This much we already knew, and it has been the case ever since. As we are seeing today, for want of arguments of their own, denigration of their opponents has always been a key part of the Euro-luvvies' strategy. Now the boot is on the other foot – and it's open season. No mercy will be shown.