“Momentum is with the #Leave campaign” say the headlines and no doubt many of those who value the UK’s membership of the European Union are beginning to worry a little. This may be no bad thing, as complacency is a terrible thing in politics!
So how does #Remain secure victory from here?
Well, we cannot be sure, because we really have no idea whether the polls are accurate (we can be relatively sure they are picking up trends correctly, but we cannot be sure about the baseline). But some thoughts…
At this stage, both polls the odds are, peculiarly, almost identical to where they were at this stage in Scotland two years ago – probably ever so slightly more favourable to #Leave now than #Yes then, but not by much. All other things being equal, therefore, #Remain should win from here, on around 53-54% of the vote.
In referendums, if you are explaining you are losing. The reason is that referendums are almost never about the question asked. Spending a lot of effort explaining how the European Commission works or even how it is not really £350 million/day at this stage is time wasted – anyone who really cares about that has already decided accordingly. Most people contemplating voting #Leave are doing so to have a go at politicians and to strike against the system. For as long as they believe that is a free strike, they will hardly be swayed by detailed arguments about what a European Directive actually is!
What people do not like is uncertainty or division. Yet uncertainty is the only thing a #Leave vote guarantees, and ask them for any detail and you will soon find division.
So let us hear #Leave do the explaining, not about the wild claims they make, but about their specific plans after 24 June and how precisely they propose to go about them. How can they be certain, especially when they are themselves so divided about their vision?
It’s the economy, stupid
“If the referendum is about immigration, #Leave wins” sums up a blog post right here 18 months ago. It is incredible – and alarming – how many people think that immigration is an issue where people are open to rational persuasion. In fact immigration – particularly of people who neither look nor speak like us – plays to primal, psychological instincts of “fear of other” (hence they are being unleashed by populists all over the Western World – by Trump in the United States, Hofer in Austria, Le Pen in France and others).
However, so does the economy. We are characterised, economically, by an instrinsic fear of what we stand to lose economically, rather than what we stand to gain. #Remain is at its best when that (entirely legitimate) fear of loss is playing on voters’ minds.
People do not generally vote rationally, no matter how much we like to think we do. We are emotional animals – that is why we fall in love or suffer genuine trauma when our sports team loses. With voting, in particular, patriotic (even nationalist) emotion is a significant driver.
That is why this short video from Gordon Brown is excellent. It makes the patriotic, British case for leading not leaving. For people who instinctively think that to be British is to not be European, it is a respectful, appealing and compelling case that they are innately the same thing.
If there is one case #Remain leaders can make for the next 10 days, particularly in England, it is to repeat the case around British leadership and British values over and over again.
Get out the vote
That patriotic case will not appeal to us pesky Liberal types, but we are largely already persuaded (and in fact we are quite useless at persuading, because we simply cannot begin to see the counter-case).
Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise that everyone must use their vote.
Chirping about “facts” will not achieve that. Remember, this is about emotion.
So ask, over and over again: how would you feel if you woke up on 24 June to find the UK had voted to leave the European Union?