Sadly, hardly a day goes by without coming across some sort of argument between Rejoiners.
These arguments are almost always based upon some form of party political or ideological disagreement. Everyone seems to want to attack Tory Rejoiners, Starmer supporting Rejoiners want to attack Corbyn supporting Rejoiners and vice versa, Scottish Nationalist Rejoiners want to attack Scottish Unionist Rejoiners and vice versa. The list goes on and on and is pretty much endless. Furthermore, the mere mention of some staunchly Pro-European individuals such as Tony Blair can be enough to start an argument.
Given that support for Rejoin is spread right across the political spectrum this needs to stop otherwise our goal of Rejoining will become increasingly unlikely and our movement, which has been painstakingly built over the last 5 years, will fragment and die.
As a movement we must stop fighting between ourselves and focus on issues related directly to our membership of the EU. However, there is also a need for considerable improvement in that area as well.
Imagine yourself as an outsider listening in to what the Rejoin movement is saying. Many of the messages we effectively broadcast to the outside world are inconsistent and contradictory, and can even inadvertently legitimise what our opponents are saying and end up working against us. Furthermore, some of what we say is very complex and difficult to understand and often very negative.
There is still a tendency within Rejoin to focus on the negative aspects of Brexit. Apart from ironically the fishing industry, the dire predictions of mass bankruptcies and associated job losses are unlikely to materialise. Even if they do, they will either be masked by Covid, or are going to occur over a longer, slower period of time rather than the quick cataclysmic event that would be needed to shock average leave voters into the realisation that Brexit is a bad thing that they should not have supported in the first place. Even then, as has become apparent in recent weeks, many if not most staunch leave voters will either blame everybody and everything other than Brexit, or will claim Brexit is worth it to ‘get back our sovereignty’.
Other arguments presented by Rejoin, such as the cause of Brexit being the desire to avoid EU anti-tax avoidance rules have no resonance at all with large sections of the electorate such as Red Wall voters and never will. Some arguments, such as challenging the result of the 2016 referendum on the grounds that there should have been a super majority, whilst understandable, actually end up having the opposite of the desired effect and confirm the legitimacy of the 2016 result in the eyes of many ordinary voters.
This inconsistency and contradictory nature of what we are saying a movement is not helping our cause and needs addressing urgently.
When discussing our campaign over Christmas a fellow Rejoiner pointed me in the direction of Moscovici, a French social psychologist, and his work on minority influence. Whilst I am still exploring his work, the potential it has to aid our cause rapidly became apparent to me.
Amongst other things Moscovici theorises that consistent arguments that do not change over time and that are perceived by the majority as legitimate and unbiased will succeed in changing the views of that majority. Implicit in this theory is a need for the arguments presented by the minority to be simple and straightforward so that they are readily understood by that majority.
The implications for the Rejoin Movement are that instead of the multiple, complex and often contradictory and inconsistent arguments that we usually present to the outside world, we need to simplify what we are saying and present far fewer but more consistent messages that will not change over time.
Effectively, we need to forget issues such as super majorities, tax avoidance and what our opponents’ term ‘project fear’, and focus on messages that are easily understandable by the majority of the electorate and which will resonate with them. Fortunately for us many such messages are readily apparent, meaning it is simply a case of adopting them and using them consistently. Examples include:
- We reject Brexit as the Leave Campaign lied, broke Electoral Law and Data Protection Law
- Nationalism and false claims about immigration are the root cause of Brexit.
- Membership of the EU is beneficial and is a good thing for the UK
Adopting a smaller and simpler set of messages such as these for broadcast to the outside world does not mean that we cannot engage in deeper discussion amongst ourselves or indeed with the wider electorate. However, before the wider electorate will engage with us in these deeper, more complex arguments, they need to accept that we have something to say that is legitimate and worthwhile, which is where these simpler consistent messages come in.
These simpler consistent messages are the key to that deeper engagement and persuading a politically apathetic electorate that we have a valid argument and that the question of EU membership needs further consideration.