The Labour and Lib Dem conferences are presenting an opportunity for Remainers that many Remainers are missing.
Millions of people are motivated in their politics not by brexit but by other things. At the 2016 referendum the leave campaign understood this well when it claimed a vote for leave was a vote for the NHS.
That move inspired people who didn’t really care much about the EU but really cared about the NHS. That the message came with a lie about the money was irrelevant. It motivated people with a positive outcome they cared about.
“I have always found it dispiriting that many political people are dismissive or even derisory about apolitical people.”
With politics so focused on brexit, and with Remainers especially so, that lesson needs to be learned and learned again. A general election is coming and potentially so is another referendum.
Labour Conference is adding to the chance to learn – a chance that started with the Lib Dem conference. But can remainers learn?
Along with millions of people not being motivated by brexit, there are millions who are not motivated by politics. With politics so fixated on brexit for the last few years, these millions will presently be almost entirely the same millions.
Having spent years in politics I have always found it dispiriting that many political people are dismissive or even derisory about apolitical people. There can be an attitude of morality that people should be more political and pay more attention when, in fact, raising children, dealing with illness, going to work and enjoying free time is actually the point of it all. Politics is meant to facilitate that, not distract from it.
“Both proposals are great news for remain, but the response has often been minimal or even negative.”
At a general election, however, millions of these people switch on. They take notice. They make decisions.
In 2017 we saw this play out well for Labour who pushed a powerful domestic focus on the doorstep – something it wants to do again at an upcoming election. It then rose dramatically in the polls as the otherwise disinterested started to get interested and, as it turned out, liked Labour’s domestic agenda quite a lot.
Can Remainers do Domestic?
Party conference season is often a lot of pointless noise. It is the epitome of parties talking to themselves. You must understand that so that you can look beneath the noise and find nuggets of gold.
Labour used the first full day of its conference to propose scrapping prescription fees on medicines. Lib Dems a week before proposed creating a Green Investment Bank.
“Both the Green Investment Bank and free prescriptions cost money. All remainers should endorse both.”
Both proposals are great news for remain, but the response has often been minimal or even negative. Labour face inevitable remain wrath over a policy that is seen as flying in the face of shortages and less money caused by a brexit they technically still support doing. The Green Investment Bank was scarcely cheered amid the cheers for a new policy of “revoke”.
This is crazy because both should be powerful remain assets.
Can Remainers Get Positive?
The Conservatives have been talking for quite some time of the desire to get brexit over and done with. This feels disingenuous to many because “no deal” or even the present proposed “deal to do a deal” afterwards seem likely to start years of more brexit to be done.
Disingenuous or not, Remainers need to learn from it. If the idea of getting back to business plays well, Remainers need to offer that too. That’s easier if it has a strong set of domestic policies to motivate those not motivated by brexit.
“The trouble here will be that for many Remainers such things feel small compared to brexit.”
The Green Investment Bank and free prescriptions cost money. All remainers should endorse both and emphasize that the £1billion a week the UK makes from EU membership will be used to pay for these.
Best of all, by remaining in the EU, the UK can get back to running the country – which many people will feel positive about – and running the country then looks like a Green Investment Bank and free prescriptions for the sick.
The trouble here will be that for many Remainers such things feel small compared to brexit, especially in light of Yellowhammer.
Six million people signed a petition to stop brexit. In comparison perhaps 250,000 people voting for free prescriptions or a Green Investment Bank might seem minor.
But at a General Election those six million voters are in the bag for remain. The voters still to be convinced now matter more because they are not.