Thursday 19 May 2016

The anatomy of failure

Figure 1: the answer is no
In the matrix of public opinion every cell has its thought leaders and respected intellects. We'll call them nodes. People will not generally bother to trouble themselves with detail in politics. They want the headlines. They will just ask the people who do pay attention. In most cases, all they want is a nod from the man from Del Monte. (showing my age there). In this referendum, they will be asking various node individuals if the Leave brigade have a credible case. The response will be as illustrated above.

That is why you have to win the intellectual argument. You can use simplistic populist arguments to galvanise and motivate the base, but you need a sound proposition to win over the swing vote. You cannot afford to fail the credibility test, your facts must stand their ground and you need to have integrity. People may not agree with you but at the very least will respect you.

In this, you have to make sure that your populist arguments seamlessly mesh with your intellectual case or your biggest weakness is then your inconsistency. For instance, you can't say we will maintain academic cooperation programmes while at the same time proclaiming we won't pay anything into the budget. If you drop the ball you absolutely demolish your own credibility and word soon gets out. Why this point is lost on every eurosceptic I have spoken to beats the hell out of me.

And this is why Vote Leave have blown it. The £350m a week figure is bogus. Their contortions about the single market are equally bogus. Their stance on immigration is bankrupt and when it comes to regulation they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. As far as the dodgy numbers go, everybody knows they are bogus, including the campaign strategists. It is a lie and they know it. And so we fail on the integrity score straight off the bat.

Worse still, because the Leave camp have it in their heads that we must show unity at all costs, they have accepted Vote Leave as their campaign and have gone through the same mental contortions in order to justify the lies they tell. They now believe their own bullshit. They have no capacity for self-critique and no self-awareness. Anybody who does is a heretic and must be isolated and unpersoned. A self-referential groupthink is then born. I think that may explain why The Leave Alliance is its own separate entity to the blob.

The problem with this is that the behaviour of people is usually at its worst when they have abandoned rationality. Anyone who doesn't think like them is instantly identified not as a potential convert but an enemy who must be engaged as such. We are all guilty of that to some extent. Much of the time I am combative straight off the bat which is probably why this blog is less successful than it perhaps should be. Any campaign needs to be mindful that when you are dealing with a deeply political issue you are going to have impassioned people with entrenched thinking.

You have to be sure that the campaign slogans you are giving them can be defended honestly. I know plenty of leavers who feel genuinely embarrassed by the campaign material from Vote Leave. I would have to disown it because it's simply untrue that we'll save all this money and spend it on the NHS. Moreover, are you seriously going to tell me that this mantra is consistent with Leave spokesmen? Like Nigel Lawson and the IEA give a tinker's damn about the NHS? No.

And who should we have as ambassadors? Not Boris Johnson. As it happens I don't think the Leave side has any presentable people. Hannan sounds like an android and always sounds like he's about to deliver a Shakespearean soliloquy. He has too many insincere affectations. John Redwood is too much of a dick, Lord Lawson is a moron and nobody in the IEA knows what they are talking about. Not one.

As far as the democracy arguments go, the only person to date to put out a convincing case across in the tradition of Tony Benn was George Galloway. And he's an epic dickhead. So far the only person who has sounded even close to having a clue has been John Mills. Had he been primed with better information he could have been a real asset. Similarly Kate Hoey but she's always in transmit mode and won't listen to what she is told.

That is why we will need a serious clear out after the referendum because all we have right now are drongos. The truth is, we haven't got any good spokesmen because we don't have an attractive argument or a positive vision. Who, if they have any sense at all, is going to put themselves into a situation where they will be forced to defend wrong and bad arguments? The only man who can and would is Boris Johnson because he is the sort who can be consistently wrong and unpleasant and be given a free pass. But that cannot win a referendum.

From the outset you need to stress test your message. It has to be the words of winners. Eurosceptics bleat on about going global but it's empty when you contrast it with the rest of their message which is outright hostile to global engagement. Again, it fails the credibility test.

I've said it time and again, but simply whingeing about the EU doesn't work. Very few people like the EU, but they need a seriously good reason to take a risk - and that means you have to have a safe and desirable alternative. Oh, and a plan to get there. Vote Leave's approach is to pretend there are magic wands to instant prosperity. Rather than seeking experts they sought people who will tell them what they like to hear. The Westminster bubble all over. They are going to lose and they will deserve it.

But this really says a lot about the EU doesn't it? I hate just about every mainstream leave politician. I hate Vote Leave, I hate all of the other groups, and I think their message is bad and wrong. I am looking forward to this referendum being over so I can, for a time, have nothing to do with the eurosceptic loser creed. Yet I will still vote to leave the EU. As much as the Leave movement is a shambolic mess, there is still nothing that can convince me to stay in the EU. Britain does not belong in it and should never have joined. Whatever else I may say, that much will not change.

No comments:

Post a Comment