Don't Blame the Voters: Britain's Brexit Crisis Is Caused by Bad Campaigning

30/06/2016 09:28 | Updated 30 June 2016

The political fallout from the Brexit vote began almost immediately after Leave was declared the victor. It doesn't seem to show any signs of easing up, either, in the wake of today's comments from the European Council. For example, as one BBC commentator put it very succinctly today, we have an unprecedented political situation where there is one leader resigning with his backbenchers clamouring for him to stay, and another leader resolutely staying in office despite his backbenchers desperately trying to convince him to go. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious.

However, I don't want to focus on the result or fallout of the Brexit vote, or where we are supposed to go from here. I'd like instead to look at how badly the campaigns were fought. Voters were subjected to blustering, half-formed perspectives designed more to secure votes than inform the electorate of the stakes. As a result, both sides of the argument are now suffering heavily directly due to mistakes they both made on the campaign trail in the blind scrabble for votes. These are problems that we're seeing now that those responsible are going to have to work very hard to resolve before they invoke Article 50.

For both sides, openness and honesty would have been the much better policy. The Remain campaign would, most likely, have been much more successful if they had addressed the main concerns of many, rather than simply ignoring them. The campaign was atrociously out-of-touch, highlighted nicely by the 'Votin' video that was circulated on social media that sparked quite a few derisive laughs. But, despite the terribly bland and stagnant campaign, 48% of voters still voted for Remain. This serves well to highlight how successful Remain could have been overall, if those working on it had targeted those voters who hadn't decided at the beginning of the process that they were going to vote 'in', instead of appealing to those who already had.

The overall feeling from the 'in' campaign was that they started with a strong backing, but failed to convince many to swing their way. Remain's campaign was poorly managed and idle, and it remained so throughout the referendum. David Cameron's focus on the economy was strong, which now seems more understandable given the immediate economic fall-out in the wake of the Leave result, but it never changed its tune, and crucially it never listened to the voters' concerns. If Remain had turned the Leave campaign's own promises against them instead of burying their heads in the sand, by exposing most of the Leave campaign's claims as utter rubbish (the famous £350m a week for the NHS, as well as the ridiculous overuse of the phrase 'take back control' on pretty much everything) then Remain would probably have convinced more floating voters to swing their way. It would have been quite easy - which brings me nicely onto the Leave campaign's biggest mistakes.

The victorious Leave campaign are now having to deal with the fallout of the political nuclear bomb that they themselves detonated, which has spectacularly drifted back over their heads. The £350m a week that was apparently paid to the EU was always an incorrect claim, and so we were never going to 'get it back', and senior Leave officials (Ian Duncan Smith, for a start) admitted that it was a bogus claim even before the referendum took place. Nevertheless, they blundered on with it, plastering it all over the side of their 'battle-bus'. Only now is it being tempered with blustering politicians - flagship Eurosceptic Nigel Farage, prominently - arguing that it was nothing more than 'a mistake'. It's not just this claim, either, those heavily invested in the Leave campaign have renounced almost all of their campaign promises on controlling immigration, investing in the NHS and managing the economy. This was all designed purely to get votes - which apparently worked, but it's destined to cause those same voters to lose faith in the Leave ideology when it emerges that Britain stands to lose much more than it gains from leaving the EU. Though, as many will undoubtedly point out, it's too late now.

Today's comments from European Council President Donald Tusk about how Britain must retain all aspects of the common market - including freedom of movement - highlights this loss perfectly. If this comes to fruition, Britons will find themselves in the same position as they were before the referendum regarding their concerns over immigration, working overseas and 'red-tape' surrounding import/export. This totally eliminates the idea of 'taking back control', as we will have lost our seat at the European table that regulates the market that we still want to be a part of. If anything, we're going to have even less control than we had before.

The referendum result was decided before either side of the debate got going. The campaigns were fraught with misinformation in the name of securing votes ahead of telling the truth. The crisis we have is a product of lazy campaigning to a poorly informed electorate.