Paul Sykes, who backed UKIP's European election campaign in 2004 to the tune of £1.5 million, launched yet another Eurosceptic campaign recently. In an article published in the Telegraph, we were promised a £10 million campaign, during which "Every man, woman and child will get to know what our relationship with the EU is".
Two weeks on and the campaign seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut. Rather than produce their own research they have simply lifted quotes from other peoples - some of which is used by such noble organisations as the BNP and the National Front. Rather than put up posters they are downloadable so campaigners can print and post them at their own expense.
Their website has not been updated since the start of the campaign. It looks like it has been designed and written by a two-year-old - the staff paid for with Sykes's millions can't even spell Peter Mandelson's name correctly - and the blogs and media section are still blank. The newspaper advertisements (of which there have been four), are remarkably uninspiring.
So much for £10 million. According to my calculations they haven't even spent £500k yet.
As for every man, woman and child getting to know what our relationship with the EU is, there is very little sign of that happening. I did a straw poll survey and asked a political journalist, two political studies students and an A-level student what they knew about the Speak Out campaign. They all gave us the same answer - "what campaign?" When I called The Sun's advertising office, they hadn't heard of it either; and even the people at the Times had to look through their records before they knew what I was talking about.
Their arguments are even weaker than their campaigning. Endless, unsubstantiated figures are wheeled out ad-nauseum, alongside rhetoric that gives the impression that it's not the EU's political structure they don't like, but that fact that it involves co-operating with foreigners.
According to them, over 80% of British laws now come from Brussels (when the figure quoted by the House of Commons library is 9%). Apparently, the Council of Ministers is best compared to Communist regimes in China and Cuba (when the Council is actually made up of democratically elected government ministers)
Sykes was challenged to an open debate about Britain's membership of the EU by the deputy leader of Labour's MEP's, Richard Corbett. He accepted, and the story ran in the Yorkshire Post. Unsurprisingly, his office has still not heard from the Sykes camp two weeks later. Euro sceptics like Sykes and UKIP don't really like scrutiny.