Why did they win?

In a general climate of suspicion towards politics, the establishment, and globalisation, Leave campaigners managed to portray themselves as anti-establishment insurgents, despite being led by ultra-establishment figures. They they ran a ruthlessly efficient campaign, strong on the dark arts of manipulating media, manufacturing myths and rebutting anything — however authoritative — that didn’t support their view, brazenly labelling it all as “propaganda” or biased or scaremongering.

They had a clever soundbite, “take control”, which they were disciplined in repeating in every speech and every interview on every subject. It had superficial appeal, and required whole sentences to rebut and explain that we have more control over many issues by being part of the EU. It avoided making any choices on any subject (if you have control, you can do whatever you want, even if that means very different things for different people). The Remain campaign’s slogan was no match.

They successfully shifted the debate to migration. The Remain campaign either avoided the issue, urging people to focus instead on economic benefits, or tried to spell out the benefits of migration — neither of which would convince those with strongly-held concerns. Many of us warned the campaign that it would have been be more useful to point out that we’re better off in the EU even from that standpoint.

They told lies. There was a breathtakingly long list of outright lies told by Brexit campaigners.

They built on 30 years of eurosceptic media stories, an art form pioneered by Boris Johnson himself when he was Telegraph correspondent in Brussels. The constant drip, drip of stories (from straight bananas to the volume of legislation “imposed” on us by “Brussels”) intended to make the Union appear silly or sinister has, over the years, had a major effect on public perceptions of the EU. This was reinforced by the gamut of europhobe newspapers (Mail, Express, Sun, Telegraph) during the campaign itself.

They were helped by the Remain campaign being seen to be led, on the Conservative side, by an inevitably unpopular prime minister in his sixth year of office and a chancellor discredited after his shambolic budget, and on the Labour side by a leader who was unenthusiastic. The official Stronger In campaign was led by the disastrous Lord Rose, rapidly sidelined (but not replaced) after his initial gaffes. It focused so much on the risks of leaving that it did not get across the positives of the EU. It failed sufficiently to deploy the vast array of non-political supporters, from universities to ecologists to businesses.

Now, the Leave lies are coming home to roost. They said there would be no damaging economic consequences — there are. They said securing a new trade deal with the EU will be no problem — it is. They said there would be no threat to the integrity of the UK — it’s emerging.

Rarely has a country’s history been manipulated in such a way against its best interests.

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26 Comments

  1. Really sorry you and other MEPs will lose your jobs, Richard. Most leave voters woefully ignorant about EU , have thrown away so much built since the war. Truly dreadful.

      • Yes and almost the entire media encouraged all the dishonesty just for good headlines. The after result even some of the most vociferous ones immediately started telling people they’d be worse off out of EU

  2. Thank you for your hard work for the labour party Richard. This is a difficult time for the country and and a time of uncertainty for the party. I would like to ask that you please stand behind Jeremy. He is popular with grass roots supporters and needs the party to stand behind him.

    • Why do so many people believe Jeramy is popular with grass roots supporters when he so half heartedly supported the remain campaigne? All he does is rehearse his far left dogma to his Momentum extremists. The MPs and many longstanding Labour supporters and activists are thinking about the Labour voters who actually are capable of getting us in to power, so we can change things for the better for the majority of the population and not just the rich minority.

  3. agree entirely. The referendum wasn’t necessary. The kind of changes could have been discussed constructively within EU either by. Convention (like Spinelli Group suggest) ;by poor implementation of directives so we had to explain ourselves and seekmderogations; by leading new ideas. The refeendum wasn’t about Europe or what kind of integration we want. It was about Tory divisions and ambitious would-be PMs. The absence of cross party campaigning (unlike the Britain in Europe Single Market campaigns)’ overt bbc bias, foreign led media dishonesty, muzzling of youth and women, and establishment unaware of anger outside London at unjust distribution of scarce resources…we owe it to our young people to give them the chances we had and indeed created for them!

  4. Yep but what do you Richard think we should do next. Time for necks on the line and clarity from leaders.

    1. Are you in favour of jexit?

    2. Do we put effort into a second referendum?

    3. Do we commit to a manifesto commitment for the next general election of staying in EU a la Lib Dems.

    Your commentary feels a bit like the 1st Workd War British generals’ fundamental error of fighting the previous war and not the one in front of them.

    Clear answers please.

    • Fighting a general election on a platform of #Bremain will be a heck of a gamble: almost half the population want out of the EU, so you’d lose their votes, and we dare not risk letting the Conservatives win again: the country cannot take it.

      Unless it is possible to set up a separate “Bremain” party and stand it on joint platforms with the other parties. I think it is possible, but it would need the agreement of the other parties and I cannot imagine that happening.

  5. Ukip played a blinder.
    Thank you for your efforts in the face of overwhelming anti EU and anti Labour press coverage.

  6. Yes. Sad for us sad for you – thank you for your efforts.

    “strong on the dark arts of manipulating media” – did “they” (Boris, Gove, Farage) really manipulate the media or were they just puppets of the Media Moguls? I don’t think we should forget Blair negotiating for Murdoch’s support – just as Thatcher did.

    Too few have noticed how poorly the BBC fulfill their mission to “Inform, Educate and Entertain.” They were nobbled years ago.

  7. In view of your accurate analysis, and the strong views of so many of our electorate, why not make use of the constitutional methods available to stop this going through Parliament. At least its worth a try.
    Don`t forget , 62 % of the electorate did NOT vote for “leave”

  8. Your ‘academic’ analysis is a load of Yorkshire tripe Richard.
    Millions of people voted Leave because they have had more than enough of austerity over the past 35 years. Neo-liberal EU, Tory AND Labour policies have produced massive unemployment, food banks (in 2016 !), subsistence wages, totally unaffordable rents, massive shortfalls in Housing, etc etc etc.
    Those people worked that one out for themselves Richard. They are not thick Northerners, nor racists. You are thick if you cannot see that. They want a stake in society, one that the EU has helped deny them. Well now they feel good about themselves. The whole world is listening. And you still aren’t!

  9. Thank you so much for all your efforts. Your app Doorstep EU was brilliant when out and about if something was raised which I couldn’t immediately answer. Mind you as we can see from the Ashcroft exit poll over 40% had made their minds up over a year ago. However, that still left the rest, so thank you for that.

    However, I have to ask how much on-going market research was being conducted (see also Bill Watts’ comment) during the campaign.

    Thanks again for all your work

  10. Richard I feel sorry for you and others who have done so much in Europe over the years. But although Cameron made so many errors in running the campaign from rushing everything to ignoring the 16+ year-olds, Labour has to realise that we were idiotic to have a Remain campaign run by Will Straw and Lord Rose, against Elliot and Cumming, to rely on economic arguments, instead of promoting a positive view of the EU, to ignore the 4 million UKIP voters, and to have no strategy to counter the publication of immigration figures in the middle of the campaign. Further Labour may look back on how stupid it was to have a LAbour turncoat like Gisela Stuart as chair of Vote LEave, and a USELESS Alan Johnson chairing the LAbour campaign. How many media appearances did he make? Why, Richard did you not make more? Instead blaming Corbyn, as you MEP’s hve done, as part of a plot, is just scapegoating, and like all such efforts, despicable.

  11. Have come to realise that the EU should have focused on its achievements and benefits to the UK populace and rebutted all the silly stories. Needed a proper UK based comms operation before the referendum was mooted.

    Still hindsight is a wonderful thing!

  12. Amongst the many reasons for the Leave result, perhaps we should also consider the effect of using the term ‘Brexit’ for months leading up to the referendum.
    It habituated people to hearing the word ‘exit’ over and over again. Who knows how this might have influenced voters?

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