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Lacklustre Remain Campaign Gives Leave a Terrifying Legitimacy

10/06/2016 15:14 | Updated 10 June 2016

I'm voting remain, and I think anyone voting to leave is a moron (that's A MORON). The arguments to remain have been comprehensively won. Yet vote leave has significant, I would say terrifying, momentum.

Why is this?

There is a principles of advertising and marketing used to persuade people to buy stuff that apply equally well to political campaigning. It's the reason why people enjoy watching particular films, TV programmes or listening to particular music.

It's about emotion.

Rational arguments might make you think about buying a particular bag of crisps, but an emotional argument will have you going into the newsagent to buy them. Rational arguments win debates, but emotional arguments promote action.

Throughout this campaign we have been offered two alternatives.

First - vote leave. Boris, IDS, Grayling, Farage, Gove. Any of them, all of them. They talk about 'sovereignty', 'independence' and so on. These are emotive arguments divorced from practical arguments like the economy or jobs.

Second - vote remain. Numbers. Piles and piles of numbers. While those numbers may be right, or at least give a consensus, numbers are basically boring.

I don't say this with any satisfaction or pride. I took an A-level in maths and enjoyed the subject. I like numbers. But I'm in a minority, and even those who do like numbers can be distracted from them when there is an emotional argument at work.

Somewhere in the bowels of Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, some idea formed that said, "If we chuck numbers at people they will be persuaded."

Wrong.

A barrage of numbers might win the argument, but might also provoke a migraine. A barrage of numbers will not produce action but the opposite. Apathy.

The leave campaign has done nothing right. Nonsensical, borderline racist at times, scaremongering. But it has been consistently emotional, even if that emotion is fear or an awkward kind of jingoism.

Weekly advertising bible Campaign this week won an amazing coup, with David Cameron putting the case for remain. Because the UK is the European centre for marketing and advertising, approximately the size of the rest of the EU's marketing and advertising sector put together, it's no surprise that the advertising industry is overwhelmingly in the remain camp anyway.

Isn't Cameron preaching to the converted? Wouldn't his comment work better to sway those intending to vote leave or wavering? Say in The Mail? It shows the dearth of analysis and competence at work in remain, and I'm terrified.

Last week we finally saw some of the posters developed by artists like Antony Gormley and Rankin to support remaining in the EU. They are mostly great. Some negative, most positive, but all emotional. Where are they? Why aren't they plastered on every bus stop and the side of every Tesco in the land?

Whatever the result of the referendum, the complacent way in which the remain camp has fought sickens me. Cameron called this referendum, which I think we can all agree is pretty bloody important, but then failed to make the case for remain. He failed to make an emotional connection with the electorate.

While Cameron et al fiddle, London and the rest of the UK is on the verge of burning.

In the vacuum created by the remain campaign, some plucky brands have had a go. Ryanair produced a great poster which the Brexiters then called the police about (note to Grayling et al: you complain about an ad to the Advertising Standards Authority, not the police).

Perhaps the choice of agency is a problem. Remain chose M&C Saatchi, whose chairman Tim Duffy told Campaign that negative campaigning would, "not [be] fear mongering" and is actually the "right and appropriate thing to do".

Wrong again.

Negative campaigning has been shown to work... sometimes. Worked for the Tories against Kinnock in the 1980s, but more often leads to apathy. Apathy is a shortcut to disaster in this campaign which needs the young to get out and vote, not just watch the results on TV with disinterest.

To put such an important question up for debate, but then effectively walk away from a meaningful campaign has given the Brexiters a terrifying legitimacy. Once this campaign is over, we should ask how such a situation could have occurred, and whether such a leader is fit to govern if he's willing to place our future in such appalling jeopardy in such a cavalier manner.

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