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Make our case on Leavers’ ground
21 Jul, 2019

Sovereignty, democracy, community, identity. They are our reasons too.

London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg writes that we need at any one time to present a small number of key messages for the Remain campaign. They should last for a couple of months. We should focus on sovereignty, democracy, community, identity.  That is, we should make our arguments on what Leavers think is their ground; but actually it’s ours. This blog sets out the issues; companion blogs suggest key messages to use - and messages to avoid


Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. We are not going to settle the messages in a blog. They need to be tested with focus groups and in surveys – and in real time on social media. They need to work with their targets (voters). They also need to be energizing for the people who are going to deliver them (pro-Remain campaigners).

The actual wording is a separate issue from content.

A key message would be supported by sub-messages that explain and expand – without diluting the core message.


Campaigning needs clarity, consistency and simplicity

But we do need a handful of positive messages that last for several months. In the actual campaign period we need a small number of messages that are rammed home. We probably need three key messages at any one time. But over the months between now and referendum day we can run different sets of key messages for a few months each.

That would be in addition to a theme of the week giving focus to that week’s campaigning.

Remember: Take back control! We send £350m to the EU – let’s spend it on the NHS instead! Turkey is set to join the EU and 80 million Turks will come here! As campaigning these messages were ace.

As policy they were dishonest drivel. Our values include integrity, not winning at any cost. So we have to do better than that. Other of our values that our messages should reflect include: working with others, diversity, a belief in equality across Europe, a positive outlook.

But we do need to agree, as a Movement, as a Campaign, what we are about.


We have to talk to Leavers, not ourselves

Sure, we’ll need to get the core vote out. Remember that the small lead in the polls is due overwhelmingly to a preference for Remain amongst people who did not vote in 2016. These are the flakiest voters. Many Remainers felt that 2016 had settled it and will be nervous about voting Remain again or just wish it all to go away. So it will take a lot of effort to keep our vote up.

But to settle the question and prevent another referendum, we have to reach at least the result from 1975 (67:33) on at least the turnout of 2016 (72%). So we need to persuade six million Leave voters to vote Remain.

London is key to that. A quarter of Leave voters live in London and the South East. London campaigning reaches them as residents, commuters and visitors.

There is some evidence that the small number of Leave voters who have switched to Remain have done so while their views on the economic effects have changed. So we may convert some by talking about the economy. But not many:

  • everyone’s identity is now wrapped up with Remain/Leave;
  • it is not clear what the direction of causality is (have people changed from Leave to Remain and therefore changed their view of economic prospects or vice versa?);
  • the economy was the key message of Stronger IN. We all know how well that worked. 

There is a small section of Leavers – typically Conservative MPs - for whom trade deals and deregulation are the driver. For many others that aspect of Brexit is decoration, to counter the criticism that they are Little Englanders. 

Fundamentally most Leave voters are concerned with sovereignty, Britain’s place in the world, freedom, democracy, community, immigration, respect. They always have been. The exit polls showed that clearly (it is Remainers who care about the economy).

Those are the issues we need to address. To win, we need to make our case on their ground. And that’s great. Because actually these are our issues. They are the reason we wish to stay in the EU. So we will be making our case on our ground.



The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.