Web Only: the best of the blogs

The top five posts from this weekend, on China, John Terry and Angela Merkel.

1. China is a very bad model for the left

At Liberal Conspiracy, Paul Sagar attacks left-wingers who admire the Chinese model of development. The country's phenomenal growth is achieved by systematically denying the civil and economic rights of its people.

2. Why's this been pulled from the Sky News paper review?

PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson wonders whether the Mail on Sunday's front page was pulled from the Sky News website under orders from No 10. The paper reports on claims that Gordon Brown physically attacked a member of his staff.

3. What Dave should be asked about JT

David Cameron should be asked why John Terry, worth an estimated £17m, merits the Tories' pro-marriage tax break, says Sunder Katwala.

4. Disagreements with conservative base upset Merkel's second term

ConservativeHome looks at five factors damaging Angela Merkel's second term as German chancellor.

5. John McFall to stand down

J Arthur MacNumpty looks at the possible runners to replace John McFall, Labour MP for West Dunbartonshire.


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Vote Leave have won two referendums. Can they win a third?

The Remain campaign will hope that it is third-time unlucky for Vote Leave's tried-and-tested approach.

Vote Leave have launched a new campaign today, offering a £50m prize if you can guess the winner of every game at the Euros this summer. They’ve chosen the £50m figure as that is the sum that Vote Leave say the United Kingdom send to the European Union every day.

If you wanted to sum up Vote Leave’s approach to the In-Out referendum in a single gimmick, this is surely it, as it is deceitful – and effective. The £50m figure is a double deception – it’s well in excess of what Britain actually pays, and your chances of winning are so small they can only be viewed through an electron microscope. Saying that “the UK pays £50m to the EU” is like saying “I paid £10 for breakfast at Gregg’s this morning” – yes, I paid with a £10 note, but I got £8 back.  The true figure is closer to £26,000 a day.

But the depressing truth is that this sort of fact-free campaigning works – and has worked before. It’s the same strategy that Matthew Elliott, the head of Vote Leave, deployed to devastating effect, when he was head of the No to AV campaign, and that Dominic Cummings, head of strategy at Vote Leave, used when he was in charge of the anti-North East Assembly campaign: focus on costs, often highly-inflated ones, and repeat, over and over again.

This competition is a great vessel for that message, too, with the potential to reach anyone who has at least one Facebook friend with an interest in betting or football, i.e. everyone. And as my colleague Kirsty Styles revealed yesterday, this latest campaign is just one in a series of Internet-based, factually dubious campaigns and adverts being used by Vote Leave on the Internet.

The difficulty for the opponents of No2AV was, as one alumni of that campaign reflected recently, “how do you repudiate it without repeating it?”. A row over whether the United Kingdom sends £50m or £26,000 – itself £1,000 higher than the average British salary – helps the Leave campaign whichever way it ends up.

Neither Yes to Fairer Votes or supporters of a devolved assembly for the North East ever found a defence against the Elliott-Cummings approach. Time is running out for Britain Stronger In Europe to prevent them completing the hattrick. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.