Some Distilled Wisdom on the Referendum

The Brexit  decision is history but there is a value as we shape our future in understanding how it happened . Here , distilled from the accounts of Craig Oliver and Tim Shipman are eight key reasons as to how the Referendum sunk Cameron and brought Submarine May to the top:


  •  “fighting a simple lie with a complex truth” – Andrew Cooper, Populus
  • Leave’s skilful choice of emotive catchphrases: take back control; we want our country back. They sound like a call to action and have an emotional cut through
  • Broadcasters’ approach to balance – “impartially” reporting both sides although the weight of evidence on one side might be  vastly greater than the other. Compounded by as Craig Oliver put it, ” never clearly labelling the lie”
  • Remain’s consistent unwillingness to confront directly leading”Leave” figures partly because they didn’t believe it was productive, and partly because of the need to manage the Conservative party after the referendum -vide: the attack ads prepared but not run-” don’t regret it the morning after“, “waking up with Farage“, “Boris in Farage’s pocket”.
  • the complete inability to engage with the Labour leadership. It is unclear whether this was a cynically executed ploy – Labour prepared to see the country’s future risked as the price for the Conservative party ripping itself apart (although it can be equally argued that a vote to Remain would have had the same effect) or ineptitude or possibly a mixture of the two. In any event the effect of the Labour campaign was that 45% of Labour members did not  know Labour was pro-remain
  • belief in the “economy stupid” as a winning argument when Leave was majoring on immigration and stoking up fears about 75 million Turks coming to the UK –vide  campaign broadcast and the Dad’s Army Arrows
  • the failure to have a clear position on immigration resulting in the need to work around the issue when it required a head on challenge e.g. a broadcast from Sunderland observing the limited direct experience of immigration and the choice which flowed from leaving the European Union and the jobs at Nissan which might not be available to their sons and daughters in the future
  • finally the referendum was a badly judged exercise in Conservative party management rather than addressing the national interest – a commitment given in the manifesto at a time when an outright majority  seemed unlikely. Cameron won  the majority but the referendum sank him and Submarine May rose to the surfaceIMG_2958

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