Lord Stewart Rose, the former M&S boss who acted as chair of the ill-fated Stronger In campaign, says he was “marginalised” by pro-Remain politicians who were determined to stick to Project Fear.
In an exclusive interview in City A.M.’s Bespoke magazine Rose opens up for the first time about the failed campaign to remain in the European Union. He said: “They told us they knew how to win these things – it was all controlled from the centre. I was marginalised fairly early on, but I would have done anything they asked.”
Rose also reveals he wasn’t the first man on the Remain campaign’s wish-list for the post, saying they offered it to “two or three others before me”.
I’ve never turned away from a challenge. At least if you stand up for what you believe in, you won’t live a life of regret for not speaking out. It is better to be punched on the nose than not get in the ring at all.
Rose says he was initially inclined to say no to the job: “My first, second and third instinct was to turn it down, but there was a certain amount of pleading on the phone and I agreed. I always knew it was going to be a dirty fight. I don’t regret it, but to be honest, businessmen should stick to business and politicians to politics.”
He says that while he maintains deep worries about the UK’s financial future outside the European Union, he will not campaign for access to the single market or the delaying of Article 50, saying it’s time to “let someone else carry the weight”.
He added: “I’ve never turned away from a challenge. At least if you stand up for what you believe in, you won’t live a life of regret for not speaking out. It is better to be punched on the nose than not get in the ring at all.”
Rose endured a torrid time at the heart of the campaign. He was derided after getting the name of his organisation – full title: Britain Stronger In Europe – wrong four times during an interview with Sky News. He also says he was misquoted as saying wages would rise in a post Brexit UK.
In the interview Lord Rose also tells our wine columnist Neil Bennett that he owns more than 10,000 bottles, although he describes himself as “a drinker, not a collector... I don’t do drugs, I don’t do horses, I don’t do golf, but I do enjoy wine.”