Best, and most honest, post-mortem I’ve seen on the EU Referendum bar none from Daniel Korski, a foreign policy advisor to David Cameron:
When people ask me whether I think Project Fear lost us the referendum, I answer that Project Fear did in fact win. Just not ours. Our problem is that the other side was much better at fear-mongering. Their threats — of mass immigration, Turkey’s membership, and a European army — were far scarier to the British voters than our warnings of an economic slowdown.
But materially, he’s also right here. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail:
Winning would have required a much greater effort, much earlier on, to sway the electorate. One more attack on Boris Johnson, or another speech by Cameron would not have been enough. There were loads of things in hindsight that we should have done — such as deploy Ruth Davidson and Sadiq Khan much earlier or have gotten Cameron out on the road earlier — but I doubt they would have been critical.
And while all of Cooper’s focus groups said it was a head (economics) vs heart (immigration) contest, it was a mistake not to attempt to engage emotionally. We may never have been able to win those arguments but we should not have vacated the ground entirely.
But our biggest mistake was our failure to deliver the kind of deal we — and especially the media — had given the impression was possible. From the moment Cameron promised a referendum we should have built up the case for European cooperation, preparing the electoral battlefield we would eventually have to fight on. We didn’t. And so a better organized, more passionate adversary won.
But do read the whole thing…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty