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Monday, September 22, 2014

Yesterday Scotland, tomorrow the EU? Are there lessons for the 'In' and 'Out' camps?

Staying or leaving?
If David Cameron wins the May election he has promised an In/Out EU referendum by 2017. Even if he does not it is still probable there will be one at some point. National referendums are rare in the UK so with the Scottish vote we have a rare glimpse of what the EU referendum campaigns could look like. What should the nascent In/Out camps take away from it?

In trying to understand the motivations of the Scottish voters Lord
Ashcroft's poll, conducted after the vote, sheds some interesting light. Voters made up their minds late in the day - 52% of voters made their mind up this year with 18% in the last month. The main issues driving independence voters were disaffection from Westminster and concerns about the NHS. Uncertainties over the pound and pensions drove the No side. 70% of Yes voters said they agreed with "The principle that all decisions about Scotland should be taken in Scotland" while No voters also felt the risks of independence were to great and conflicted with their attachment to the UK.

So are these findings and the Yes/No campaign relevant to a UK referendum on EU membership? here are some key issues:

Scottish Yes/No
EU In/Out
The need for a clearly thought out alternative to the status quo
The Scottish 'Yes' campaign came unstuck on some key elements of their proposition. Notably confusion over the £ and EU membership. The difficulty ‘Yes’ had with these key policies dogged their campaign
The nascent EU ‘Out’ campaign has a similar problem as there is no settled view. What relationship will the UK have with the EU after exit? Will it be the EEA, a new free trade agreement, what will access to the Single Market be etc and what are the political trade-offs. 
Harnessing optimism
The 'Yes' campaign was good at harnessing the ‘future’ and ‘change’ as a campaign weapon. The ‘No’ side failed to put forward a comparable future vision for the UK focusing instead on the risks of independence leading them to be portrayed as ‘negative'.
It will be difficult for the ‘In’ campaign to portray an optimistic vision of an EU future, given the likelihood of ongoing problems in the Eurozone – it will probably stick to pointing out what it sees as the risks of leaving.

It remains unclear whether the ‘Out’ campaign will be able to manage to transform itself from campaigning against the EU’s negative record to wholeheartedly putting forward its own positive vision.
Who leads the campaigns matters - can they claim to be the anti-establishment?
In Scotland the ‘Yes’ campaign was united, had message discipline and was led by the First Minister of Scotland. This gave it the credibility of office and the ability to set the scene while remaining an outsider/underdog in relation to Westminster at the same time.

By contrast the ‘No’ campaign was cross-party, divided and although ‘backed’ by the UK government was simultaneously seen as 'the Establishment' while being in opposition in Scotland.

It is unclear who the ‘In’ and ‘Out campaigns will be led by. However, on the basis that David Cameron is content with his renegotiation, the ‘In’ will have the advantage of the head of government and all the main party leaders.This could leave the ‘Out’ campaign run by UKIP and a number of backbench MPs.

Although the ‘Out’ side would have the advantage of being ‘anti-establishment’ there would be a large imbalance in credibility and official resources that could tell in the campaign.

Foreign interventions helpful /

The ‘Yes’ campaign had to endure a series of interventions against them from UK allies and others including the USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, NATO and the EU.  
While foreign interventions in the EU referendum are inevitable some will be more effective than others. While UKIP will not lose any sleep over an admonition by Mr Juncker, Germany or France, they may suffer some damage if Commonwealth allies or the US express a desire for the UK to stay in the EU.
Business interventions - do they matter?
'Yes' had to put up with major Scottish and UK companies threatening to relocate out of Scotland in the event of independence. To counter it Yes managed to organise some pro-independence business voices but the overwhelming balance of the warnings weighed on the campaign.
‘Out’ like ‘Yes’ is likely to have to endure a slew of major companies questioning the case for exit, particularly larger businesses. This too will be countered by pro-exit business voices. Without the currency issue to worry about, the business question will be about what market access the UK would have to the single market (see alternative to the status quo section above).
Emotional appeal of staying / leaving?
While 'Yes' managed to mobilise significant emotional appeal for independence the residual emotional appeal of the United Kingdom was also considerable.
The emotional appeal of the EU institutions in the UK is close to zero. While it is clear that the emotional desire to leave the EU is felt strongly by confirmed 'Outists', it is less clear what role political identity will play among the undecideds.
Devo Max / EU Devo Max - key to the middle ground voter?
While the campaign started as a polarised Yes/No campaign it quickly switched in the last week into a No+Devo Max v. separation. This managed to win over some of the wavering middle ground to No. For that to work the credibility of the offer being delivered was key.
The In/Out campaign will start from the basis that ‘EU Devo-Max’ has either been achieved or has failed. This will have a huge repercussion on the campaign. If the negotiation is still on-going and is in the form of a last minute ‘EU Vow’ it is unlikely the credibility of those offering it will be enough to swing the result.
Turnout and the undecided voters - Age groups voting
The Yes/No campaign had a very high turnout and a high level of voters who made their mind up in the last month.

Older people tended to support the UK and younger people independence. As turnout was universally high the normal higher turnout among older voters probably did not tell.

An In/Out referendum is likely to have a lower turnout and a higher level of undecideds, making the last month and weeks of the campaign key.

Older voters are more likely to vote for 'Out' and younger for 'In'. However, with a lower turnout older voters are more likely to make their voice heard.

Wild card issues
The Yes/No campaign spent a lot of time discussing the supposed ‘privatisation’ of the NHS - a policy area already devolved to Edinburgh.
Immigration aside, the dry nature of EU policy could mean the In/Out campaign comes to focus on unpredictable issues.
Rogue polls - who might they help?
The close nature of the polls probably drove turnout and drove ‘shy unionists’ who may have taken the result for granted to vote.
Polling is also very likely to be a large driver of the 'In' / 'Out' campaigns but it is unclear who this might benefit.


Rik said...

Great Summary.

Some remarks:
-Salmond was pretty good in making it a positive campaign. The INs were basically negative (on the dangers and uncertainties). Hard to see that the EU-Ins will be different. It will very likely be a negative campaign. The dangers are real (both Scotland and EU), but a negative campaign puts anyway a lot of people off.
Positive for the EU will be harder anyway (with the economic morgue the EuroZone). Will be next time we will do it better 8.3 or so. Totally uncredible.

-Wrong people campaigning. Likely a lot of the In campaign will be by the Gordon Browns(irritating for most people), Redings (irritating burocrat), Malthing (irritating soybean eater from the 70-80s). A mistake made in the Scotland campaign very likely to be repeated (as they have no alternative). The EU simply has nobody in its ranks that can sell the EU to the majority of the Brits.

-Foreign interventions will overall be considerably more Out. Simply the large majority thereof is exactly the reason a lot of people donot like the EU (Basically any brusselcrat and 90% of the rest). There will be no constant US warning but there will be such by Juncker&Co.

-Very likely the potential not voters are much more anti-establishment than pro. If it is to say 70-80% turn out. If these can be mobilised it will be very difficult for the Ins. Probably when it gets more than that the extra turn out will be more INish (like in Scotland).

-Very unlikely as OE mentions that last moment promises will be a gamechanger. The Out vote simply doesnot buy things from people from Brussels. Just look at the credibility problems Cameron has with them. And his actions are way more EUcritic and he is no foreign burocrat.

The Ins simply will have to consider that Farange setting the agenda and all sorts of nasty stuff like immigration issues will be top of the agenda. Anything better will be a plus for them.

Probably even a 40% Out vote will mean the Tories are in majority Out. Which will give a new dynamic anyway to the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

As it was mistake to leave Devo max/plus option out in Scotland in first place it is also a mistake to leave a version of a Norway/ Switzerland model off the negating table. If choice is for concessions viewed as only minor then the eurosceptic majority will vote for out as the Farage/ Clegg debates highlighted.

Average Englishman said...

Interesting summary and some equally interesting points made by @Rik, many of which I agree with.

There is no love of the EUSSR in the UK and in the end it will come down to whether the Government and the 'In' campaign can convince enough people that they would be worse off outside of the EUSSR than they would be staying inside of it. The 'Better Off Out' campaign would have to prove that their name really is true.

Many leaders of big business like the aerospace and car companies would campaign for an 'In' vote by telling the UK public that they must stay under the yoke of Brussels or lose their job/ruin the UK economy, whilst there would be a cry from the 'grass roots' for a stop to unlimited immigration, Brussels meddling and a return of powers to the UK that would be financially beneficial (give us our fish back! and a return to trading with the expanding Commonwealth).

The BBC would in its usual 'unbiased' (ha ha) fashion, concentrate on keeping the UK in the EUSSR. The power of this should not be underestimated, considering the small army of 'Z list' celebrities (like the Eddie Izzards of this world) who would be given free reign to take the micky out of those of us wanting a return to freedom. It could in the end be very close but rather like the Scottish vote nothing Cameron says or does will be taken seriously and could easily be counterproductive for the 'In' cause.

In the meantime, I am intrigued to see how Dave will try to avoid the need for a referendum altogether, as he surely will if he thinks he may lose. Oh, and if there is a referendum in 1917 that votes for an 'In' result, you can be sure that unlike the Scottish situation, the call for UK freedom will not be put aside for a generation but will continue and grow stronger at every crass act from Brussels (and there will be plenty). So, no pledges against a 'never endum' here.

Anonymous said...

There will be no OUT campaigners except Farage & Co with the EU referendum. Whatever concessions Cameron wins he will say it's better than being Out. It will be that nearly all forms of Media are Ins, whilst only the Loonies are Out. I just hope that if people find it hard to say they're Outs, that they are the silent majority and will vote Out when it comes to it. If UK votes to be In EU, That's it forever, no more votes, no more debating.

Rik said...

I am not sure the BBC coverage will be helpful for the Ins.
Assuming the BBC will like to go for an In campaign (whatever the reneg results)(probably a fair assumption anyway).

However they face the same problem as the Ins in the Scotland referendum. Very likely a very negative campaign. Which is most of the time a bad sell.

Farage will likely be the main Out guy. But his advantage is he fits in well with a positive Out campaign (painting a bright future outside the EU-cemetry).
His disadvantage is he looks for too many people as a populist (as in a lot of uncertainty).
However if he can put the pressure on the Conservatives very likely a lot of MPs will campaign outish as well. Probably one of the main things to focus on pre-referendum.
He should however have a lot better answers to some main issues than Salmond had for EU/Pound. This was very badly communicated to the electorate. Simply too risky to gamble on that happening again.

Back to the BBC. Simply work on their lack of credibility on this issue well ahead of the referendum. Salmond did a very good job in that respect.
They became sort of neutral (even on Salmond's hogwash issues).

Business could be the decider. Therefor as well IP needs to communicate how they will deal with the main uncertainties to the general public as well as to the businesssector.
On the other hand re Scotland basically one expected a very negative businessector. They were that probably however most of them kept silent about that. Hard to see any major bank in Scotland not having its suitcases packed.
Again Salmond managed that pretty well.

As I see it IP&Co should start basically with campaigning right away. Next to the normal campaign:
Keep pressure on the Conservatives.
Communicate the exit risks solutions to the business sector.
Work on basically biased institutions like the BBC.
Keep eroding the credibility of Europe. On issues that will attrack swing voters or previously non-voters. Immigration of course being top of the list.
Focus on the main stuff and donot come up with BS unless you really have to (even EU burocrats do occasionally something right).

Rik said...

Dave if he is sensible will have to go for another sort of campaign.
-Look at his people that represent him to be credible for the electorate (mainly swing vote). No Hagues.
-Work on his own credibility. That a referendum will happen and people will not be presented a lot of BS. Hold one in Gibraltar for instance (and/or a few more around the UK). A harder neg position in the reneg.
-Find the positives (likely a new start for the EU or something like that).
-Find a solution for immigration in the reneg. Anything else but a real solution is unlikely to be acceptable for his potential voterbase.
-Get a good reneg result of course. Communicate that properly.
-Do not come up with BS when the reneg didnot give results. Just act as if prepared to pull the plug.
-Find the weak points in the Out campaign. Salmond was selling crap and he did let him get away with it.