If the Leave campaign in the EU referendum was resembling Project Grouch a few weeks ago, today it is rather closer to Project Apoplexy. Vote Leave exploded late last night after ITV announced that it would be holding a live referendum event with David Cameron and Nigel Farage. The campaign group first accused the broadcaster of a ‘stitch-up’, furious that it had capitulated to Number 10’s demands that there be no blue-on-blue fighting on the programme, and picked Nigel Farage, who is not just the member of rival campaign Leave.EU but also a turn-off to the sort of swing voters the Leave bunch actually need to appeal to. Then things got a little bit more fruity, with a senior source accusing the broadcaster of lying and its political editor of having his own political agenda:
‘ITV is led by people like Robert Peston who campaigned for Britain to join the euro. ITV has lied to us in private while secretly stitching up a deal with Cameron to stop Boris Johnson or Michael Gove debating the issues properly. ITV has effectively joined the official In campaign and there will be consequences for its future – the people in No 10 won’t be there for long.’
This is quite an interesting statement. It makes Vote Leave sound rather like the sort of conspiracy theorist outfit that it is trying not to look like – and that it is shunning Nigel Farage in order to avoid looking like. It is also reminiscent of the Scottish independence campaign, in which accusations of media conspiracies became a major feature. Perhaps this is helpful to the Leave side in the long run, as it helps create a sense of betrayal among supporters of the Brexit cause, and could nurture a movement that continues to push for a second referendum if June’s result means that Britain stays in – as has happened in Scotland. But for the time being, the furious complaining from Vote Leave is hardly like to endear it to the voters it actually needs to win the referendum.