Breaking Point

UKIP have released a poster in the week prior to the EU referendum ballot on the issue of immigration.

The headline reads “breaking point”, the ad also carries the body copy “the EU has failed us all” and a call to action which implores voters to vote to leave the EU in order to take back control of UK borders.

The copy on the poster is similar to the sorts of messaging that we have been seeing from the official ‘out’ campaign Vote Leave.

So why has one of the leaders of Vote Leave, Michael Gove MP, been on the airwaves over the weekend saying (amongst other pejorative comments) that he “shuddered” when he first saw the UKIP advert?

The differences between the Vote Leave and UKIP attacks on immigration are subtle. Which is why the furore that emerged upon the Breaking Point poster release is so illuminating as to the differing perspectives held by groups like UKIP & Leave.EU and those supporting the more mainstream campaign Vote Leave.

The UKIP poster is seeking to capitalise on the anxieties  of those who are concerned about asylum seekers and illegal immigrants gaining access to Britain from war torn / unsafe / economically troubled countries outside the EU. The image chosen is deliberately symbolic of pictures voters will have seen accompanying humanitarian news stories, such as those about Syrian citizens fleeing their homeland.

Vote Leave’s poster on the other hand, on the surface at least, takes exception to extending EU membership to Turkey (et al) on the basis that it would increase the number of people who could legally enter Britain.

As I said, it’s a fairly subtle difference. But it’s clearly the line in the sand that politicians like Michael Gove and Boris Johsnon have drawn.

I’m not sure voters, with plenty of other much more pressing things on their minds, will be as willing to decode the distinction.

Both posters will appeal to those who have strong perspectives on immigration, but I suspect neither speaks to the crucial swing voter who has not experienced any significant personal problems with immigration, nor recognises any major economic benefits from Britain’s EU membership.

If the result doesn’t go their way on Thursday I suspect Vote Leave will wish they had spent more time worrying about finding an approach to communicating their position on immigration in a way that could convince the undecideds that it’s a reasonable policy stance and less time bickering over the precise pitch of the dog whistle.

Vote Leave’s new poster uses Turkey as a bogeyman

Vote Leave - Turkey is joining the EU - poster

Vote Leave have released a poster depicting a passport as an open door alongside the claim that Turkey is joining the EU.  The stated intention behind the poster is that it aims to highlight to the electorate the additional number of people who might legally migrate to the UK if Turkey was allowed to join.

The poster is a follow-up to a video released two days prior which accused David Cameron of being duplicitous about the likelihood of Turkey joining the EU.

Vote Leave have thus far struggled to establish a bogeyman for their campaign.  You can read about why that might be here.

But the fact that they’ve done a few bits on Turkey suggests to me that their research shows that a proportion of floating voters would lean towards Leave if they were told that the secular middle eastern republic would join the EU in the short to medium term. In short, they’re testing the waters of making Turkey their bogeyman.

This is the first time that Vote Leave have deployed a poster about immigration.  The fear of accusations of racism is surely the only reason for the hesitation, as poll after poll shows that immigration is a top issue for voters and that those who favour limiting it highly correlate with those likely to vote Leave.

Some are indeed accusing the poster of deploying racist dog-whistle tactics, rather than raising legitimate concerns around immigration numbers, but whether Vote Leave stick with this line of attack will depend on poll numbers not headlines.

Previously the Vote Leave campaign had been pushing a message, requiring a fair amount of mental gymnastics, around spending the money we’d save from EU membership on the NHS (see poster below).

The Vote Leave strategy up until now must have been based on the assumption that they wouldn’t win 51% of votes cast with an immigration-only message.  As they judge that to be the case, they’ve been trying to add to their supporter base those who care deeply about the NHS.

It will be interesting to see if this Turkey activity is the first evidence of Vote Leave giving up on their coalition-building agenda and shifting their focus towards what most people assumed, prior to the campaign, would be their core message.




Review – Brexit: The Movie

I’ve finally got around to watching Brexit: The Movie.  At one hour and eleven minutes long it is surely the longest ever piece of political advertising in the UK.

Nevertheless, the time flies by.

The argument is robustly made , the quality of the talking heads featured is high, the structure of the film is tight and there are good levels of production value throughout.

It successfully positions the EU as a sprawling, self-serving, unaccountable, wasteful bureaucracy that serves the political class and is suffering from long-term, self-inflicted economic decline.

The film powerfully brings into question why Britain would willingly give away law-making powers to an organisation that it can’t effectively hold to account.

Immigration as an issue, interestingly, doesn’t get a look in.

The film is all the more impressive when you consider that it was financed by crowd-funding.  Over 1,800 members of the public contributed to the total of £300,000 which was deployed by  writer / director Martin Durkin and the production company Wag TV.