If there was a second referendum, how could we win it? Mike Hind suggests ten ways.
In October 2016 The New European published my ‘How to win the next referendum 10-point plan’. It canvassed expert opinion on how to get it right if there were ever to be a next time.
Suddenly, thanks to Nigel Farage’s addiction to attention – and divisive identity politics – the idea of a second referendum is part of mainstream discussion again. So here is an update on those thoughts on how to tackle one, if it happens.
It’s tricky to imagine fighting a referendum for which you don’t yet know the options but some general principles can be established.
I’m sticking with the ’10-point plan’ structure, with additional nuances.
1. Leadership: One of the casualties of Brexit politics has been the further erosion of respect for mainstream politicians. The new leaders of a pro-European drive need to be untainted by standard party politics. Arguably the most powerful figure on the anti-Brexit scene is Scientists for EU founder Dr Mike Galsworthy. Low on grandstanding and high on impassioned articulacy, the movement needs more like him. Imagine an NHS-specific Galsworthy, a Galsworthy from farming, another from manufacturing and so on. People with a genuine stake in the sectors they represent. People who speak for people and not parties.
2. Project (economic) Fear: Drop it. Until a major business pulls out of Britain, citing Brexit, the economic arguments are all but impossible to parse for the majority of people. This includes me.
3. The NHS: This is the gift that keeps on giving if you’re against Brexit. Use it as the totemic issue. Repeat endlessly: ‘You can have Brexit or you can have the NHS – it’s your choice.’
4. Friction and lost rights: Forget catastrophising about the country and focus on the insanity of issues like customs delays for holidaymakers.
5. Chlorinated chicken: Focus on how EU single market rules protect us from eating s**t.
6. Cancer: What could exemplify the vacuous argument that leaving the EU gives us more control when the availability of radioactive isotopes for cancer treatment is still not guaranteed?
7. Organise in the real world: Ranting online is cathartic, but talking calmly with real people is a game-changer. Join grassroots groups to help with this.
8. Stop shouting ‘Remain’: Unless Remain becomes an option again, drop it. It represents a status quo that is no longer available. You cannot make June 23, 2016, unhappen. But you can make yourselves look ‘undemocratic’, so try not to.
9. Understand the difference between objectives and messaging: Messages open the cognitive door to achieving objectives.
A 25-tweet thread about the complexities of various trading relationship options may well be true. But it is data, not a message.
10. Focus on your base: Grind out those votes. The majority for Brexit is shrinking all the time while younger pro-EU voters are added to the electoral roll daily. This is how Trump and Brexit won.
In short, whatever you do – don’t repeat the mistakes of last time.
Mike Hind (@MikeH_PR) is a journalist and public relations consultant