The government’s £9million pro-EU ‘propaganda’ mailshot could be swinging the referendum battle in David Cameron’s favour, the Tories’ election guru has said.
Sir Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the party’s general election victory, also said the Prime Minister was showing ‘urgency’ while the Leave camp appeared ‘divided’.
The comments by such a respected figure, who has also run campaigns for Brexit-supporting London Mayor Boris Johnson, will spark concerns among those pushing for the UK to quit.
Mr Cameron’s decision to spend public money on the leaflets met with a furious response from his own benches, with accusations he was trying to skew the result of the ballot.
The claim came as Justice Secretary Michael Gove attacked Mr Cameron and senior Remain figures for treating the public like ‘children’.
Tory election strategist Sir Lynton Crosby said the government’s EU mailshot could be swinging the campaign
He warned that Britain is being held ‘hostage’ by Brussels and insisted the UK would be better off outside the European single market – arguing that major players like Germany and France would ensure we could still trade freely.
He also dismissed the EU’s current representative on the World Trade Organisation as a ‘sociology lecturer from Sweden’.
In other developments today:
- Former foreign secretary Lord Hague lashed out at Boris Johnson for criticising Barack Obama’s expected pro-EU intervention.
- Tory election guru Sir Lynton Crosby said the government’s controversial £9million ‘propaganda’ mailshot appeared to be swinging the campaign in the Prime Minister’s favour.
- Education Secretary Nicky Morgan appealed for colleagues to ‘step back from the brink’ of civil war over the EU.
Mr Gove’s coments in a keynote speech come only days after his fellow Out supporter, Boris Johnson, labelled David Cameron and his allies the ‘Gerald Ratners’ of British politics – trying to push an EU project that they know is ‘c**p’.
‘At different points In campaigners like to argue either that Brexit would lead to EU nations using their massive muscle to punish us, or that Brexit would lead to contagion and the collapse of Europe – just as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union collapsed following secession from those unions,’ Mr Gove told the audience in London.
‘Manifestly both cannot be true. An EU without the UK cannot simultaneously be a super-charged leviathan bent on revenge and a crumbling Tower of Babel riven by conflict.
‘The UK’s success will send a very different message to the EU’s peoples. They will see that a different Europe is possible.
‘It is possible to regain democratic control of your own country and currency, to trade and co-operate with other EU nations without surrendering fundamental sovereignty to a remote and unelected bureaucracy.
‘And, by following that path, your people are richer, your influence for good greater, your future brighter.
Before his speech, The Justice Secretary was unusually given three minutes of uninterrupted airtime on the flagship programme to make his case for Brexit.
He used it to accuse the Remain campaign, led by Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, of portraying the public as ‘hapless and feckless’.
‘Britain’s a great country. It’s the world’s fifth largest economy with the world’s best armed forces, best health service and best broadcaster,’ he said.
‘We’re first in the world for soft power, thanks to our language, culture and creativity. And yet the In camp try to suggest that we’re too small and too weak, and our people are too hapless and feckless to succeed without Jean-Claude Juncker looking after us.
‘That’s a deeply pessimistic and negative vision. Britain could do better. We’re a uniquely inventive nation and our greatest invention is representative democracy – the principle that the people who run our county should be chosen by us and can be kicked out by us. That’s why it’s time to take back control.’
‘I’d like to see a Britain on the WTO determining trade policy. More than that I would like to see trade barriers that we’ve erected in the EU against developing nations come down.’
Later Mr Gove argued that – for all the dire warnings – a vote to remain inside the Brussels club is ‘the real danger’.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove, left, and Boris Johnson arrive for a meeting of the political Cabinet in Downing Street today
Mr Gove said: ‘If we vote to remain, the EU’s bosses and bureaucrats will take that as carte blanche to continue taking more power and money away from Britain.
‘We’ll be told by Brussels to shut up and suck it up. We’ll have no influence and will be outvoted. The eurozone countries have a permanent and unstoppable majority allowing them to set the agenda and overrule British interests.’
The Justice Secretary also warned that, if Britain remains inside the EU, the European Court of Justice could ultimately force Britain to give prisoners the vote.
Last night Education Secretary Mrs Morgan, who supports the UK staying in, warned against allowing the debate to tear the party apart.
‘We need to step back from the brink and take a long hard look at ourselves,’ she said, ‘Yes, let’s debate our EU membership but let’s keep that debate on the issues and, above all, let’s not undermine the work that this government is doing to deliver real social justice.’
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Sir Lynton – an Australian who was knighted for services to politics – said an ORB poll showed ‘further improvement’ in the position of Remain.
THE ‘EX-SOCIOLOGY LECTURER’ WHO SPEAKS FOR THE EU ON TRADE
EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström represents the grouping on the WTO
Justice Secretary Michael Gove dismissed the EU’s representative on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as an ‘ex-sociology lecturer from Sweden’.
He was referring to Cecilia Malmström, who leads on trade issues for the European Commission.
Although EU states technically still have WTO seats in their own right, in practice they rely on Ms Malmstrom to stand up for their collective interests.
The married mother-of-two became trade commissioner under commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014, having previously served in the home affairs brief for four years.
Before that she was minister for EU affairs in the Swedish government and vice-president of the Swedish Liberal Party, according to her biography on the commission website.
In 1998-1999 she was senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Göteborg University, where she received a PhD in Political Science.
He said the In campaign had gained three points, while Leave had lost five – meaning Britain would vote 52 per cent to 43 per cent to stay in the EU if the referendum was held today.
‘The Remain campaign has also persuaded more voters of the case for staying in the EU, he said.
‘Greater voter contact from the Remain campaign and public perceptions of their performance could be directly related.
‘The proportion of those saying Remain is running the better campaign has increased by 5 points to 39 per cent while those saying the same of the Leave campaign has fallen by 10 points to 25 per cent.
‘Equally, those saying they have heard the most from the Remain campaign has increased by 12 points to 44 per cent, while those saying the same of the Leave campaign has again fallen by 10 points to 25 per cent.
‘It is possible that these positive changes in campaign activity metrics have been driven by the booklet that the Government sent to every household in the UK.
‘It may also be a derivative effect of the contrast between David Cameron’s demonstrated urgency and focus on the outcome, and infighting between various Leave factions over which campaign should receive the official designation.’
Mr Johnson was who attended a meeting of the political Cabinet in Downing Street this morning.
OSBORNE JEERED BY MPS AS HE DEFENDS ‘DODGY DOSSIER’ IN COMMONS
George Osborne faces questions in the House
George Osborne has been jeered by Tories as he defended the Treasury’s apocalyptic assessment of Brexit risks.
The Chancellor denied that leaving the EU would reduce immigration as he faced repeated attacks from MPs during his regular questions session in the Commons.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone complained that the analysis was only fit for the BBC’s popular children’s programme Jackanory.
‘In the disgracefully dodgy document published by the Treasury yesterday, which frankly is worthy of the children’s programme Jackanory, the immigration figures suggest that there will be three million immigrants to this country by 2030, placing you in clear breach of the Conservative manifesto commitment to reduce immigration to tens of thousands per year,’ he said.
‘What is your response to that accusation?’
Mr Osborne insisted there would be an ‘economic crisis’ if the UK votes to leave the EU on June 23.
One of Mr Osborne’s Treasury ministers, David Gauke, stepped in to deflect the jibes at his boss, insisting a ‘large number’ of experts agreed with the ‘direction’ of the assessment.
Responding to Tory Stewart Jackson branding the report a ‘dodgy dossier’, Mr Osborne said: ‘The public want facts and information.’
Christchurch MP Christopher Chope worked a reference to the document into a question about housebuilding. ‘How is having net migration of an additional three million people going to help first-time buyers find a home?’ he said.
The Chancellor replied: ‘We have the products to help first-time buyers in this country afford housing but I would make this observation on migration: You cannot have access to the single market without accepting free movement of people.
‘It is an absolutely clear principle that has been made very starkly clear to this country by Germany and France and is internationally accepted.
‘If you want access to the single market you have to accept free movement of people.’
After its assessment of the longer-term impacts of Brexit, the Treasury is due to publish another dossier on the short term effects in the last month of the campaign.
Chancellor George Osborne unveils the Treasury’s EU dossier in Bristol yesterday flanked by Environment Secretary Liz Truss, left, and Energy Secretary Amber Rudd