Matthew Elliott and Peter Cruddas were vital to last year’s Brexit campaign. Without them the country would not have voted to leave the European Union, says Richard Patient.
We heard this week that the team behind Farage, ‘the bad boys of Brexit”, are selling their story to an American film company. “It will be a comedy” says their spokesman.
Farage was one of those, before Christmas, chosen by the good people at Conservative Home as their five who made Brexit happen. Steve Baker MP garnered the support of the critical Conservative base and made the government give concessions on purdah; Victoria Woodcock, the ops director of Vote Leave, recruited and squashed the numerous campaign staff into one tiny office on the seventh floor of Westminster Tower and made sure they were all compliant; Gisela Stuart MP, the chair of Vote Leave, gave stunning performances as the spokesperson for Leave and brought a Germanic twist to the vote; and Daniel Hannan.
All these people deserved their place on the ConHome list because all were very much instrumental in ensuring it was a 52:48 vote in favour of leaving. It could so easily have been the other way around had these people not operated in the full knowledge that they were there to make it acceptable to vote leave, and do everything to increase the marginal vote.
The five were joined by Michael Gove, named as the Leave Campaigner of the Year, narrowly piping Boris to the prize.
But these lists leave out two people, without whom none of this would have happened. Gove and Boris are unlikely to have campaigned for leave if there hadn’t been a sensible campaign to join; Gisela would not have gone over the parapet with such persuasive force if she hadn’t been recognised as a key asset; Victoria Woodcock would perhaps still be in the civil service; and Steve Baker and Daniel would be wishing Farage hadn’t won the Electoral Commission contest and been the lead spokesman on all the referendum debates.
The Brexit books tend to suggest that it was Hannan who persuaded one of these two people, Matthew Elliott, to join him in campaigning for an Out vote. Hannan met Elliott in the garden of Rodney Leach in the summer of 2012 says Tim Shipman’s All Out War.
But actually, Matthew’s decision to be the ‘good guy’ to put this together was taken after midnight on the Friday morning of May 5th 2011. That was the day he won the AV referendum, and the venue was the ExCel centre in London. If he didn’t know it beforehand, he knew then that he had the credibility, the knowledge and the wherewithal to mount the campaign to win the most exciting contest there would be in his generation.
He was with the other of these two people that night to take that decision, Peter Cruddas, who had been made Treasurer of the No2AV campaign just three months beforehand; Cruddas was taking the first steps from being a highly successful City entrepreneur to the world of politics, and he loved it.
Matthew always operates by research and just a few months after that 2011 AV referendum, he was already building up his war chest for serious research on the EU. His No2AV campaign was based, against all advice, on cost and the NHS. His research showed him their best chance for leave was to repeat that campaign, just on a larger scale.
Although Matthew has a vast array of experience, from setting up the Taxpayers Alliance, Big Brother Watch, and even working for Bill Cash’s European Foundation in the nineties, he was still viewed in some quarters as an unbeliever and not the right person to lead the decades-old Eurosceptic war. But over several years, Matthew was able to convince a growing army of business people that he was the right person to lead the charge.
Peter is the money man, who has grown to be a passionate advocate for a number of good causes. Along with a deep association with the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Prince’s Trust, he has donated to Great Ormond Street, and got into politics comparatively late in life. During the referendum, Peter was one of only a handful of donors who joined the million pound club.
Peter was there right at the start, and stayed until right to the end, always having Matthew’s back. Peter gave business expertise to both Business for Britain and Vote Leave, and was Matthew’s most passionate backer in the years up to the referendum (as well as during the campaign itself). Peter brought stability and credibility to the organisations as well as financial muscle, and the designation of Vote Leave was due in no small part to his involvement.
Without Matthew, and without Peter, the referendum would probably still have happened. But without these two, we would not have had the successful campaign we had. Matthew and Peter didn’t make every minute decision – they left that to people like Dominic Cummings, and (to name a few in no particular order) Georgiana Bristol, Oliver Lewis, Tom Borwick, Michael Dowsett, Sam Frost, Alex Hickman, Helen Mayer, Anne Sutherland, Dewyne Lindsay, Julie Moody, William Norton, John O’Connell, Robert Oxley, Stephen Parkinson, Lee Rotherham, James Starkie, Paul Stephenson, Stephen Talbot and Victoria Woodcock. But Matthew Elliott and Peter Cruddas ensured the smooth running of the campaign, and made the fundamental decision, back in May 2011 – to set up a campaign that would win.
I wonder who will play them in the film?