Ryan Coetzee to set up company to co-ordinate Yes to Europe campaign

The Financial Times reports that a cross-party group is setting up a company with the aim of co-ordinating the Yes to Europe campaign. It is being funded by Lord Sainsbury amongst others.

It seems that Will Straw is expected to take on the role of executive director. He stood as a Labour candidate in May, and is better known as the founder of the political blog Left Foot Forward. He is also the son of Jack Straw.

Will will – I always like sentences that begin like that – be joined by Ryan Coetzee from the Liberal Democrats, in what is bound to be seen as a controversial move. Lord Cooper, the former strategy adviser to David Cameron, will also be involved.

According to the Financial Times:

The Electoral Commission will designate one main Yes and one No group, each of which will be able to spend up to £7m in the run-up to the referendum.

They will also be eligible for up to £600,000 of state funding including mail shots to millions of people.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jul '15 - 6:46pm

    What can possibly go wrong?

  • John Tilley 20th Jul '15 - 6:55pm

    Jack Straw’s son and Mr Coetzee.

    People who know me as someone who has held to the dream of European Union since I was at school in the 1960s will be able to imagine my enthusiasm for this partnership.

    Was it a partnership made in UKIP Heaven?

  • So after our stunning 2010 GE campaign, the person running it went on to run to the stunningly successful Yes to AV campaign. Now, after our stunningly successful 2015 GE campaign the person running it goes on to run the Yes to EU campaign. Can’t help thinking there must be a better way to choose such people.

  • Unacceptable. I won’t be donating any money to a campaign with that man involved. I have an awful feeling this campaign will turn into a disaster. I remember the Yes to AV campaign, I went to one of their phone banks and it was a joke. A few naïve kids in a room thinking they were working on Obama’s campaign – ‘phone banks work for him, they will work for us, we don’t bother with direct mail’.

  • The silver lining is that this sets things up nicely for an independence referendum shortly afterwards.

  • Matt:

    Nothing will go wrong so long as they make Nick Clegg the main spokesperson…

  • If Clegg, Mandelson and Gideon Osborne are wheeled out, then UKIP will be cheering!

  • It is vital that, as in 1975, we have a separate but parallel Liberal Democrat campaign for a YES vote.

  • Tsar Nicholas 20th Jul '15 - 11:24pm

    And posters on here don’t believe in weird conspiracy theories!

  • Conor McGovern 21st Jul '15 - 2:00am

    I personally love Europe (places like Amsterdam, Barcelona etc. are fantastic) and I don’t see much that’s really liberal about the EU. You only have to look at Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Ireland (surname’s a giveaway!) to see that uber-austerity and economic blackmail for the benefit of the major banks is neither liberal nor democratic. I believe in financial discipline as well as social justice and a green, open economy. I completely back a cooperative foreign policy but I honestly can’t see anything cooperative about crushing the people of places like Greece in the name of the EU project. As I say, I love Europe. You only have to look at a map to see we’re Europeans. But unfortunately the EU looks to me to be an illiberal, undemocratic institution. It’s not an EU project I want to be part of. It doesn’t serve the people of Europe – the evidence proves this.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Jul '15 - 8:44am

    Setting aside the obvious temptation to ‘kick Coetze’ to which some of the posters above appear to have succumbed. I have a serious problem with this development. It parallels the disastrous AV Yes campaign. The concern relates to how one can counter and push out a self-appointed group of people, who may be well-meaning but are neither democratically representative nor good at what they do who hijack the official position of proponent of one side or other in an referendum. Who will be the government body which hands out precious state cash to this disgraceful group to allow them to play while the important issue which they have hijacked goes down the plughole? ?

  • Good to hear we’re going to have our own campaign. Can we please include ideas of reform of the EU from within? We always seem to be portrayed as the EU is perfect and wonderful party, when it Isn’t.

  • paul barker 21st Jul '15 - 4:43pm

    We are the most Pro-EU party but we have 8 MPs out of 650, we cant demand influence. The disaster of our campaign in May wasnt down to a handful of people, we are all responsible & slagging each other off is rude, illiberal & childish. Lets get on with the Campaign & work with everyone on the same side.

  • David Evans 21st Jul '15 - 5:13pm

    Sorry Paul, but it wasn’t the troops who provided endless dodgy comfort polling to keep MPs docile until it was too late. It wasn’t the troops at the LD LGA conference who ended a Q&A session as soon as a question suggesting that Nick should consult more with LD councillors who had experience of being in coalition was asked. It wasn’t the troops who ignored two votes in conference against secret courts. Let’s get on with the campaign and work with everyone on the same side, but let’s not pretend the disaster of May 2015 was anything other than the electorate totally disowning us for what had been done over the previous five years under Nick’s leadership. There may have been good bits (and there were). It may have been worse if we hadn’t done it (although I don’t think so). But on balance, the public showed they hated what we had done. Simple.

  • Chris Burden 21st Jul '15 - 9:06pm

    Yes. We need a specifically LibDem Yes2Europe campaign.
    If things go well with the ‘official’ one, then we can tactically align with them.
    But, if things don’t go so well . . . we can tactically distance ourselves, avoid getting burned, just as easily.

  • Martin Land 22nd Jul '15 - 5:38pm

    Hasn’t the EU got enough problems without Ryan Coetzee?

  • @Caron, surely the worst campaign in the history of democracy was the Lib Dem campaign in 2015. Worst as in least successful. At least Better Together attracted some support even if it used negative and divisive methods.

  • Alfred Motspur 22nd Jul '15 - 8:55pm

    Just a thought, but if there will be a parallel “Yes to Europe” campaign run by Lib Dem HQ, it should perhaps clearly outline distinct differences between the beliefs of the Liberal Democrats when it comes to Europe and the beliefs of the other pro-European parties, as Chris Burden hinted at.

    By the way that this referendum is shaping up to look like, UKIP and possibly some Eurosceptic Tories and Labour MPs will spearhead the “No” campaign, whilst everyone else will take part in the “Yes” campaign. As we could probably learn from the Scottish Referendum, it’s not a great idea to have multiple parties campaigning on the same side with the very same message in the very same campaign promising the very same things (see “red Tories” and the May 2015 general election results for Labour in Scotland).

    I’d argue that it’s worth revisiting Lib Dem policy on the EU and arguing for “Yes” on the basis of that in a separate campaign, showing that whilst we’d like to stay in the EU, that’s not to say that the Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly agree with any other party on the issue of it and that’s not to say that we wholeheartedly accept whatever proposals Cameron makes (after five years of being called the yellow tail on the Tory dog, that’s probably quite a good point to make): there are still more reforms the Lib Dems would like to see.

  • David Broucher 26th Jul '15 - 6:59pm

    I’m not a Liberal Democrat, though I did vote for them last time round and I admired Nick Clegg, who was right, even if he wasn’t popular. I’m also not a member of any other party – call me a floating voter – but. I’m strongly in favour of staying in the EU, indeed I spent much of my career working towards the Europe whole and free that we were trying to achieve. I don’t think the Franco German alliance is going to split, and if we leave, we’ll be living next to a huge geo-strategic entity in the running of which we will have no say. In my book that’s lunacy. I believe the UK needs and deserves a cross-party Yes campaign led by a someone who is already well known, above party politics and able to deliver the influence and persuasion that we need. With all deference to Lord Sainsbury , I haven;t heard of any of these guys, except Will’s dad. Maybe they can run a campaign, but who is going to head it?

  • I agree 100%! Keep out of any Cameron-led yes campaign as much as possible!

    The official yes campaign will be entirely based on fear and pragmatism like Better Together. Whereas the no campaign will be based on emotion and gut-feeling like the SNP campaign in Scotland. We have seen the aftermath of such campaigns… But I think if we can mount a campaign based on ideology (internationalism is better), as well as common-sense and a bit of emotion (as Tim Farron has shown), we could help a yes vote and get some credit at the same time.

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