The former chief executive of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign took aim at David Cameron and the BBC as he reflected on the UK's decision to quit the EU on Monday evening (19 June).
Will Straw CBE, the son of ex-Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, said Stronger In were not able to go on the offensive against Vote Leave cheerleaders Boris Johnson and Michael Gove because Cameron wanted to avoid "blue-on-blue" attacks within the Conservative Party during the 2016 referendum campaign.
"What we weren't ever able to do was to frame our opponents," Straw told an audience at UK in a Changing Europe event in central London.
The pro-EU politician also revealed that Stronger In had mocked up a poster of Johnson in Nigel Farage's pocket, an advertisement very similar to the Tory 2015 general election billboard campaign which saw former Labour leader Ed Miliband in the pocket of ex-SNP chief Alex Salmond.
But the story, which was offered to The Guardian, was later dropped after the Conservatives raised their unity fears. It felt like Stronger In had "one arm tied behind our back", Straw said. He also criticised broadcasters' balance rules, explaining that the BBC would have to put up a pro-Brexit economist despite the consensus warning against a Leave vote.
"The BBC felt that they had to get both points of view and the Leave side, we know, were absolutely ferocious in making sure that they got their point of view across," he said.
"That meant the casual viewer of the BBC or other broadcast services would watch the evening news and would think that there would be a 'balanced' case on either side and wouldn't necessarily get a full weight of evidence from one side or the other. That was true on issue after issue."
Straw, elsewhere, said he was "frustrated" by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the EU referendum campaign. "If he had been willing to really campaign during the referendum, then it's possible that we would have had a different result," he said.
But Straw praised the left-winger for "playing a blinder" in positioning Labour away from Remain and a "hard Brexit" for the general election. The comments came almost a year after the UK voted 52% to 48% to split from the EU on 23 June, 2016, with Brexit Secretary David Davis and chief EU negotiator kicking off the two-year-long divorce talks on Monday.