With just 100 days to Brexit, it is time for Remainers to change strategy and get ordinary people to front the Remain campaign, not celebrities or politicians.

First published in December 2018.

With just 100 days to Brexit, and more and more people wanting to be given a final say on Brexit (with the latest Sky data poll showing 53% are in favour and only 36% oppose it.), and the likelihood of a second referendum happening in a near future, now is probably the best time for the People’s Vote and Remain campaigners to rethink their strategy before officially launching a 2019 Remain campaign.

Lies about Freedom of Movement.

Has anyone noticed whether a change of strategy and language on Freedom of Movement has coincided with the recent support offered to People’s Vote by former ministers and Conservative MPs such as Jo Johnson or Sam Gyimah?

Even Tony Blair now advocates changes to Freedom of Movement:

“And I think you can put together the right type of deal, if you like, which wouldn’t just be about Britain, it would be about Europe and accepting for example, freedom of movement of people in Europe has got to operate in a way that is fair and just, doesn’t undercut wages, and doesn’t cause problems for individual countries.”

This is plainly wrong and Remainers must explain that the EU’s four freedoms cannot and will not be altered if Remain wins a future referendum. There should be no doubt about it in anybody’s mind. Saying the contrary would simply be lying to Leave voters.

Get the celebrities out of here!

Whether they realise it or not, celebrities, politicians, former politicians and former advisors who are, in good faith, calling for a People’s Vote are actually toxic to the conversation on making the case to remain in the European Union. The likes of Gary Lineker, Tony Blair or Alastair Campbell... are not getting voters interested in the EU. They have the opposite effect.

Leave voters don’t want to hear from wealthy celebs and what they consider to represent the so-called ‘establishment’ figures giving them lessons, telling them how to vote or why they were wrong the first time around.

Remain campaigners must make the case for Remain, not play project fear all over again, not tell Leave voters that they were stupid or ignorant, nor step on the Brexiters’ immigration field to pick up a few votes.

Remainers must instead focus on the testimonies of the millions of EU citizens in the UK, British citizens in the UK and British citizens in Europe who can explain better than anybody and in the most powerful manner the advantages and the benefits in their lives of remaining in the European Union.

Leave won the first time because they captured the voters’ feeling of anger.

Remain can win this time by capturing the voters’ feelings of compassion and empathy.

Ordinary people must talk.

The new campaign must not be based in the abstract but rather in the concrete. What is needed is for ordinary people (both British and Europeans citizens) to talk about the impact the EU has had on their life, their family, their friends, their community, their town, their region.

Ordinary people. Not celebrities. Leave voters are fed up of seeing celebrities being used by People’s Vote campaign everywhere. It puts them off. They just stop listening to the message. And that is the problem. Because it is all about the message, isn’t it? It all depends on who delivers the message. Ordinary people must deliver the Remain message on TV, on the radio, on social media, in the newspapers...

Although obviously important, data, facts and economic forecasts are not listened to any longer. People just switch off as soon as they hear figures thrown at them. Michael Gove famously said that people are fed up of experts and it has become true. So many Leave voters are just not listening to experts any longer. We now live in post-truth world. We must all take this into account.

We listen to people we can relate to.

What does not lie is human experience.

Leave voters need to hear it from those people they can actually relate to. Ordinary people. Their neighbour. Their friend. Their colleague. Their brother. Their parents. Their bus driver. Their shop cashier. Their hospital nurse. Their child’s teacher. Their mate...

When ordinary people appear in the X-Factor on behalf of a charity to explain about their fight against cancer, we all watch, we all listen, we all try to understand, we all try to imagine ourselves in their situation and we all want to help.

When ordinary teenagers appear in Children in Need to tell about how their life changed when they were made homeless, we all watch, we all listen, we all try to understand, we all try to imagine ourselves in their situation and we all want to help.

When ordinary people run a marathon for a charity and explain on their fundraising page their personal reasons for supporting that cause, we all watch, we all listen, we all try to understand, we all try to imagine ourselves in their situation and we all want to help.

When ordinary people simply talk about THEIR life, we all watch, we all listen, we all try to understand, we all try to imagine ourselves in their situation and we all want to help.

That is the way. It is all about listening, understanding, showing compassion and empathy.

That is it. It is that simple. Because Brexit too is personal.

“We earn other people’s trust when we show a genuine concern for their well-being.”

Human experience is what wins hearts and minds. Not celebrities, not economic forecasts, not hard cold facts.

We are not here talking to Remain voters who already know all that, but to Leave voters, i.e. people who need convincing.

Therefore, there has to be a change of strategy to get them to listen to what matters to them, their friends, their families, their communities.

The Irish referendum on abortion as an example.

Remember how the Irish referendum on abortion was won: Ordinary women talking to their family and friends about their personal experience with abortion.

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole explained it himself:

“Exit polls showed that by far the biggest factors in determining how people voted were “people’s personal stories that were told to the media”, followed by “the experience of someone who they know.”

“Women, in the intimate circles of family and friends or in the harsh light of TV studios, said: “This is who I am. I am one of you.” And voters responded: “Yes, you are.”

“If democracy can create the context for that humane exchange to happen over and over again, it can withstand everything its enemies throw at it.”


People don’t trust celebrities. People don’t trust politicians. People don’t trust experts. People, however, do trust people.

The People’s Vote and Best For Britain campaigns must now fully collaborate with the3million, British In Europe, Final Say For All, Our Future Our Choice, In Limbo, RemainerNow and other such organisations of ordinary citizens to get those very ordinary citizens to front the Remain campaign.

We will not win everyone, but we must try.🔷


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Jo Johnson

🗳️ Sam Gyimah

🗳️ Michael Gove

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com on 19 December 2018. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Dreamtime/Michael Spring. March for Europe protest in London. | 2 July 2016.)