There was a good article in the Spectator by Nick Cohen yesterday about the People’s Vote campaign and how while they have done well to advance the cause of getting a second referendum seriously considered, they haven’t done a lot of thinking about what to do if a referendum actually happens. What ideas will the Remain campaign be based on? Who will lead it?
The scary thing to me about the People’s Vote campaign is that they are already sounding a little like Yes to AV, which if you need reminding, lost their referendum campaign by 36 points in 2011. I worked on that campaign and some of the echoes are a little eerie.
The most Yes to AV-like thing coming from the People’s Vote squad is the idea that non-politicians are more important than politicians in convincing the public on matters of pubic policy. Yes to AV tried this in 2011 and it would be hard to overstate how much this tactic failed. When it comes to politics, people listen to politicians. Even the ones who supposedly hate politicians take their lead from politicians. Look at all the Leave voters who hang off of Farage’s every word, to take only the most obvious example. People by and large don’t like being told how to vote by celebrity luvvies. Also, the news channels want to put politicians up against politicians. We tried many times in 2011 to get them to take some actor and they wouldn’t do it. The Remain campaign would face the same obstacle.
I also hear sounds about how a Remain campaign wants to fight as an “anti-establishment force”. Good luck with that. Again, Yes to AV did the same thing and it failed spectacularly. Trying to ride the wave of anti-politics for something that is inherently constructive in nature will almost always fail.
The worst thing about being a liberal is that liberals seem so unable to learn from their past political mistakes. The same shitty, proven not to work ideas just keep getting recycled over and over again. Look, guys, what about this for an idea? Assemble a good, cross-party group of MPs as your main spokespeople. There are lots of good ones to choose from on your side. Then set about explaining the real advantages of being in the EU. I would also explain that if people vote Leave again, there will be decades of Brexit bullshit to follow. That’s your basic campaign, right there.
Don’t tell people you know how much Brexit will cost every household to the penny. Don’t talk about food shortages. And please, please, please, don’t have actors try and explain why people should vote to remain in the EU instead of politicians. Win the politics – you can do it, you know. Liberals would win a lot more political scraps if they tried to fight them properly in the first place.