When Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to hold a referendum on whether Britain should sign up to the European Union's new constitution, cross-party lobbying group Vote 2004 launched a Europe-wide campaign to change his mind. Objectives
To get Blair to commit to a referendum. To raise awareness about Vote 2004 with UK and European politicians, the press and the general public.
Strategy and Plan
Vote 2004 wanted to isolate the Government by gaining cross-party support and a strong pro-referendum consensus in the media. To raise awareness about the campaign with politicians, the in-house PR team set up regular cross-party meetings, distributed pro-referendum pamphlets and held 35 one-on-one briefing sessions with MPs, MEPs, MSPs, peers and members of the Welsh Assembly.
The team also had party representatives give pro-referendum speeches at side events during the TUC Congress and the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party conferences.
The team was aware that, since the UK public were perceived as largely Eurosceptic, there was a danger that pro-constitution Europeans could see a campaign for a referendum as a campaign for a 'no' vote. To demonstrate that pro-referendum meant pro-democracy and not anti-Europe, Vote 2004 forged links with the European Referendum Campaign, which was calling for referendums on the constitution in all EU states.
At key meetings in Europe, the group teamed up with French and German lobbyists and conducted poster campaigns showing Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder with fingers in their ears next to calls for a referendum. This publicity stunt resulted in the arrest and deportation of a Vote 2004 member for demonstrating in Brussels without a licence, which provided the team with a news angle.
Vote 2004 was careful to tailor the information it sent to politicians. For example, the PR team focused on details of the constitution when targeting MEPs but emphasised the cross-party support angle with UK peers and MPs.
The team decided it could exert pressure on Blair from below by demonstrating to Labour MPs, particularly those in marginal constituencies, that opposition to the referendum could lose them votes.
To gain public support and interest from the media, Vote 2004 secured a number of celebrities to endorse the campaign, including Joanna Lumley, Ian Hislop and Tony Parsons. In all press releases and phone calls, the group emphasised its non-partisan status and used evidence of public support gained from opinion polls to give the campaign a factual footing.
Measurement and Evaluation
So far, approximately 50 stories about the campaign have appeared - in every national broadsheet and tabloid newspaper except the Daily Star.
Coverage was also achieved on ITN, BBC News, Sky News, Channel 4, Five, CNBC and BBC Asian Network, and in nine regional newspapers. Vote 2004 estimates that 95 per cent of coverage was positive.
Blair committed to holding a referendum last month. Vote 2004 achieved a broad coalition that embraced all the opposition parties and cross-benchers in the Lords, including approximately 50 Labour MPs, despite their anti-referendum party policy. Four motions calling for a referendum were tabled, with around 40 cross-party signatures. According to Vote 2004, 70 per cent of MPs were aware of the campaign.