Get The Pro Story Right…
The Pro Europeans can be their own worst enemies. Often highly left-brained, remorselessly logical and fact-based, too often they argue a dry, economic case for membership.
We have to go beyond economics. As Farage has admitted, he could live in a Britain if it was outside the EU even if it made us less well off. A poorer, but purer UK. And this enters the heart of the debate: Identity, Destiny and ‘Us.’ UKIP is creating and living its own myth of what it means to be British (and more particularly ‘English.’) It’s an odd combination of flawed history, sentimentality and exaggerated sense of purpose; a curious mix of grandiosity and paranoia. One the one hand we British are superior to our Continental cousins and single handedly won the Second World War; on the other, we are somehow being endlessly bullied and put-upon by ’Them’. As Geoffrey Howe put it in his famous resignation speech anti Europeans believed we were,“ Facing a Continent positively teeming with ill-intentioned people.’ UKIP is unwittingly crafting the latest chapter in English Nationalism and seeking to build its image of our nation. And as Karl Deutsch observed a Nation is formed by “A group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbors.”
This then is the challenge of all on the pro side. It is to engage with the deeper sense of who we are as a people and to convey a story and a purpose that carries us to the future- including those left behind. It will require a totally different form of campaigning and persuasion. Too often the rational and reasonable assumptions of ‘Just give them the facts, and they will be persuaded’ have obtained. Clegg in his debates with Farage was an obvious example here. What I call the ‘Excel Spreadsheet’ approach. Of course facts matter, but they are a small fraction of what will persuade. We need to put facts into stories that connect with the voters and answer their concerns and their values. Numerous experts have explored what this value-based approach looks like (e.g. George Lakoff, Drew Westen or Chris Rose). We need to find metaphors and analogies that stick and make sense to the audience.
If you are up for crafting such Pro European stories, drop me a line or post below. I look forward to taking this forward with you.