How The Battle Of Campaign Strategy Gave Us Brexit

30/08/2016 15:06 | Updated 30 August 2016

It has been two months since the Battle of brexit was decided, and finally there is enough distance from its hysteria for fresh reflection. The question as to why the British public leant toward the Leave campaign, and didn't wish to Remain, requires evaluating which strategies worked - and which failed. This war of words formed key campaigning battlefields, in all of which Leave won.

'Project fear' was a fashionable title, often launched from either camp. Both campaigns claimed the other was seeking to scare citizens into submission, whilst themselves upping the hyperbolic language right up until D-Day. It appeared the UK was hovering in between potential invasion and destruction for much of the final weeks.

The reason that the leave campaign's flavour of fear worked was because it was written in the language of ordinary people, tapping into their personal assumptions and observations. Remain's claims were too remote - too far from the everyday trials people face. Ipsos Mori found that it was immigration, and not the economy which forced the public's hand. The steady rise in anti-immigration sentiment had not gone unnoticed, and yet it was not fundamentally challenged. Instead, the media coverage that Remain revelled at wrote all the wrong talking points.

For Leave, the campaign leaders spoke and they were heard. The sight of David Cameron campaigning beside Jeremy Corbyn hardly constituted coherent leadership . Although factually inaccurate, more people though that Turkey were waiting for the trumpet sound of Remain to join the EU than those aware of the legal absurdity of the claim. The grander '£350m a week cost to the EU' claim struck louder chords than the Treasury's tame '£4,300 a year worse off' attempt. This was first blood for Leave; irrespective of Remain's long-term warnings, Gideon Skinner was right in saying that people cared more about sovereignty than the economy.

The public trusted people they knew more than the instructions of faceless institutions, with 46% seeing the threat of Brexit as having no personal impact on their standard of living, leaving Remain paralysed to instil their long-term projections. This would have been forgivable, if there was a reliable leader upon whose back future prosperity could rest upon.

Crucially, the public did not find that leader in David Cameron. Not in his second-hand EU stance, not in his hollow renegotiation skills, and certainly not in his feeble attempt at convincing aged or opinionated people. His resignation was inescapable.

Age is just one of the many social distinctions which Leave capitalised on, and Remain neglected. By relying on London, they forgot the bus of all buses trumping through the country before its inevitible implosion. Those 'white, not working, claiming the state pension, who described themselves as Christian' mostly preferred leave - each quality representing increasingly aggrieved parts of the country. Remain tapped into a much changed society, leaving the old one remaining bitter and angry.

Their regret immediately after the result was matched only by others' uncertainty immediately before it. Those who claimed 'buyer's remorse' chose to cure their indecision with retail therapy at the Leave shop, and overwhelmingly. Leave did not anticipate this late surge, and didn't mistrusted polling right until the last moment, when Farage was perceived as conceding a defeat his campaign never believed in. Leighton Vaughan Williams, the director of the political forecasting unit at Nottingham Business School cited the media's 11th-hour 'emotive appeals to patriotism' as essential, with the prospect of an 'independence day' appealing stronger than 'the day we remained in the EU'.

Leave's PR campaign had a tangible theme and time-sensitive strategy, using language correlating directly with escalating public concern. Remain's campaign escalation depended largely on which party was gaining internal traction over the others

The use of experts is telling example of this incompetence, the majority of whom backed Remain. Michael Gove had to appreciate industry experts' overwhelming advice to remain in order to belittle it. For Boris Johnson to racially smear President Obama, he had to contrive the President's contribution as sufficiently authoritative. But the remain campaign didn't use experts to convince their colleagues, they were intended to provide credibility to an expecting public.

But this British public lost faith in political and economic experts at the time of the most important political and economic event of the generation. Instead, perhaps for self-reassurance, there is already an attempt to prematurely negate expert forecasting post-sterling drop. This is part of the general wistful longing found today in metropolitan-based pub corners and prospective labour party leaders' speeches.

It may have been reliance on such expertise that instilled Remain with such strong self-belief, in disregarding academic objections to people's propensity to desire change in a referendum, or pollsters' already poor reputation in getting it right when it matters. Even Jo Cox's tragic death was seen as fair game - which is almost as disappointing as the fact that it nearly worked.

Looking at these points of conflict, Vote Leave's success is evident in the strategies deployed. Consistently presenting Brexit as the alleviation of a directly tortuous EU outdid Remain's often flatly-hitting claims. The leave campaign's external appeal to all parts of the country reflected an internally strong unit, strong enough it seems to counter the words of the President himself. Remain were too unsure of themselves to gain the trust of the untrusting public, who now face an uncertain future.