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EDITIONS
Friday, 31 May, 2002, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Anti-euro campaign shuns 'political elite'
Ex-Conservative leader William Hague
The anti-euro campaign style is changing.

Keep the pound campaigners are planning to continue distancing themselves from the Conservative Party ahead of a possible euro referendum.


It is important that we connect with the whole population

George Eustice, No Campaign
The anti-euro No Campaign, which has close contacts with Conservative Central Office, has mapped out a battle plan for when a referendum is finally called.

But campaign director George Eustice has said anti-euro Tory MPs do not figure highly in his plans.

In an interview with BBC News Online, Mr Eustice said he wanted to conduct a "people's campaign" that did not rely on the "political elite".

'De-politicised'

Instead, the No Campaign will field business leaders, showbusiness personalities - and anti-euro Labour MPs - to make the case for keeping the pound.

George Eustice
Eustice: Plans "people's campaign"
The Tory leadership is expected to fight British adoption of the euro in Parliament, but the party was "not interested" in leading the wider campaign, Mr Eustice said.

He said the Conservatives had agreed, in principle, that the No Campaign should be "de-politicised".

No detailed discussions had taken place, but the Tories were "aware of how we think the campaign should be conducted", he said.

A Conservative spokesman declined to comment.

Labour support

The No Campaign's links with the Conservatives were confirmed earlier this year when anti-euro party leader Iain Duncan Smith appointed Mr Eustice's predecessor, Dominic Cummings, as his head of strategy.

Among other links, Dixons chief Sir Stanley Kalms, the Conservative Party treasurer, used to perform a similar role for No Campaign affiliate Business for Sterling.

People are less deferential now and more inclined to think for themselves

George Eustice
No Campaign

But the party, in public at least, has tried to get away from its perceived obsession with a single issue.

Mr Duncan Smith has tried to shift the agenda to social issues such as asylum and crime.

Mr Eustice, who stood as a candidate for the anti-EU UK Independence Party candidate at the 1999 European elections, is keen to make use of the growing band of Labour MPs - such as former ministers Frank Field and Kate Hoey - who have come out against the euro.

But he believes the public is more likely to respond to colourful figures such as Wetherspoons pub boss Tim Martin or comedian Harry Enfield, who stars in a No Campaign cinema advertisement to be screened throughout the summer.

Tactic will backfire

"The pro-euro campaign will be forced to rely on the political elites to make their case but we will turn that to our advantage by running a popular non-political campaign that connects with voters and that is focused on jobs and living standards.

"It will be a people's campaign," he said.
Dominic Cummings
Dominic Cummings is in charge of Tory strategy

"It is important that we connect with the whole population."

But Mr Eustice denied the No Campaign was obsessed with "stunts and scams", as has been alleged by the pro-euro Britain in Europe group.

Britain in Europe is expected to field political heavyweights such as Tony Blair, Charles Kennedy and former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, as well as big hitters from the business world.

But Mr Eustice believes this tactic will backfire.

'Less deferential'

Citing the 1975 referendum on British membership of the Common Market, as it was then known, he said people were less inclined to trust the views of politicians today.

"It will not be like 1975, when all the leading political figures were on one side.

"This time the fact that figures like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will be backing a yes vote will be less of a factor.

"People are less deferential now and more inclined to think for themselves."

'High handed'

Mr Eustice points to the example of Denmark, which voted to reject the euro in 2000 - against the advice of the main political parties, as well as the country's business leaders and trade unions.

"The Danish people felt it was high-handed, telling them what to do.

"We think that will be very much the case here."

He accused Britian in Europe of "lethargy" and said the group lacked a sense of direction.

"They really don't have much of strategy.

"Their whole strategy seems to be to push the government into holding a referendum."

'Losing credibility'

The government's insistence on the five economic tests was just a smokescreen - and the eventual decision would be a purely political one, he said.

"It (the five tests) is a policy that has got a certain shelf-life and that time is running out.

"It is starting to lose credibility."

If a referendum is to be called at all in the current parliament, he said, he expected preparations to begin in the Autumn for a spring 2003 vote.


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