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The 13 steps to turn Leave voters against Brexit

DON’T identify as Remainers.

Let’s say you are a passionate Remainer, and one day you get a call from a British philanthropist who says she wants to spend £10m on an anti-Brexit campaign over the next year.

She doesn’t claim to be confident about how the negotiations will go or how the political landscape will change, but she wants to do something to shift public opinion.

She asks you, what is the most effective anti-Brexit communication strategy? What obvious mistakes should an anti-Brexit campaign avoid? What does it need to get right?

This is how we would answer.

1. DON’T argue for Remain

The word “Leave” has much more force than “Remain”, which barely deserves to be called a verb. “Leave” sounds like change, at a time when many people want change of almost any kind. The inadequacy of Remain applies even more acutely now than it did in 2016. Everyone who voted Leave, and a large share of those who voted Remain, now accept that, at the very least, something must happen. We had a referendum, and there was a clear call for change. “Remain” sounds like “no change”. It sounds like ignoring voters.

2. DON’T identify as Remainers

The more we talk about Remainers and Leavers, the harder we make it for Leavers to change sides. Doing so makes “Leave” sound like a belief instead of a decision, and people don’t like to change their minds about beliefs (when did you last do it?). If we make this a clash of tribes, we lose. Instead, let’s minimise differences and address common problems.

3. DON’T call for a second referendum

Calling it a “second referendum” contains the implication the first one was a waste of time. Worse, it makes us sound like sore losers. If you bet on a game of snooker with your friend, lose, and then ask for “best of three”, you sound a bit desperate, don’t you?

4. DON’T tell Leave voters they got it wrong

The torrent of scorn from disappointed Remainers over the past 18 months will only have strengthened the determination of Leave voters to stick to their guns. Nobody likes being told they are wrong. When they are, they cling to all the reasons they may be right. When we talk to Leave voters, we need to respect their reasons for voting as they did.

5. DON’T tell Leave voters they were lied to 

It might feel good to vent about lies, but this is another way of evoking exactly the opposite response to the one we want. To understand why, ask yourself why you weren’t fooled by these lies - presumably because you’re too well-informed or too smart to believe them. So what does that imply about those who were? When you say “You believed the lies”, people hear, “You were stupid.” This is not clever.

6. DON’T talk about the bus

The Leave campaign’s promise of £350m for the NHS was extremely successful, and even now they will claim the money is just the other side of Brexit. Why keep reminding people of our opponent’s best message?

7. DO target Leave voters 

Of course, many will never be converted. Britain Thinks found 37 per cent of Leave voters are “Die-hards” who want out of the EU at any cost. But another 16 per cent are open to persuasion. We need to focus on people of working age, who may have young kids, and who have a big stake in the country’s future prosperity.

8. DO weaponise bad news

There already has been economic bad news and there is likely to be more. We need to brand it with Brexit. The Brexit pay squeeze, Brexit price rises, a Brexit-damaged NHS. Just as a pill doesn’t have to be big to work, so it is with making bad news cut through. Marmite disappearing off supermarket shelves wasn’t the end of the world. But everyone understood it.

9. DO attack the Brexit Bill

Let’s focus minds on why we’re spending the money on this instead of on the NHS (yes, we’d have to pay it anyway, but it’s a figure that can stand in for the enormous waste of national resources Brexit entails).

10. DO make Brexit a roadblock to change 

Instead of appearing to be trying to fend off change, Remainers need to argue that Brexit is stopping Britain from making the changes it desperately needs. We want Leave voters to conclude: “You know what, I’d rather be out, but this country has bigger problems to deal with first. Brexit is an expensive distraction.”

11. DO shine a light on the clown show

 A better approach than “you were lied to” is to highlight how we have been let down by incompetent Brexiteer politicians. We want Leave voters to think: “I trusted them to deliver but it turns out they are clowns.” For Leave voters anxious about how things are going, this provides a face-saving out. Boris Johnson was a powerful weapon for the Leave campaign – now he is a powerful weapon for us.

12. DO have a message for voters who care about immigration

It’s hard to make the political case for free movement but it is possible to get most people behind “good immigration”. To do that we need to address the public’s core concern: that if people come here from overseas, they should have to put in before they can take out. This is what most people call fairness, and it’s a concern that goes wider than immigration: it underpins people’s feelings about the NHS, education and other public services.

13. DO make the sovereignty case for Brexit

When Leave voters say they want Britain to take back control, they are not referring to some esoteric debate about the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. They are saying they want the country to make rules for itself and not have rules imposed on it. Psychologically speaking, this is about dominance and submission. The fatal mistake of Remainers was to frame their case as one for compromise and power-sharing. Instead, we should argue that Brexit is weakening our country, putting us at the mercy of foreign powers. In order to make our own rules - and indeed impose them on others - we need to be in the EU and bossing it.

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous. Rob Blackie is a marketing strategist for political campaigns.

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous.

CREDIT: PETER DAZELEY/PHOTOGRAPHER’S CHOICE
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The overlooked aspect of patient care: why NHS catering needs a revolution

The NHS performs so many miracles every day – in comparison, feeding the sick should be a doddle. 

A friend recently sent me a photo from her hospital bed – not of her newborn baby, sadly, but her dinner. “Pls come and revolutionise the NHS” the accompanying text read, along with a plaintive image of some praying hands. A second arrived the next morning: “Breakfast: cereal, toast or porridge. I asked for porridge. She said porridge would be ‘later’. Never arrived. (sad face).”

Contrast this with the glee with which another friend showed me his menu at a Marie Curie hospice a few weeks later. He seemed to have ticked every box on it, and had written underneath his order for syrup sponge and custard: “extra custard please”. It wasn’t fancy, but freshly cooked, comforting food that residents looked forward to – “like school dinners”, he sighed, “but nice”.

To be fair, though budgets vary significantly between hospital trusts, a reliable estimate suggests £3.45 per patient per day as an average – only slightly more than in Her Majesty’s prisons, though unlike in prisons or schools, there is no legally enforceable set of minimum standards for hospital catering. As Prue Leith writes in the foreword to a 2017 report by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, “this means hospital food is uniquely vulnerable to a race to the bottom in terms of food quality, and patient care”.

Plate after plate of disappointment is not only demoralising for people who may already be at a low ebb, but overlooks the part food has to play in the recovery process. Balanced, appetising meals are vital to help weaker patients build up strength during their stay, especially as figures released in February suggest the number of hospital deaths from malnutrition is on the rise. According to Department of Health findings last year, 48 per cent of English hospitals failed to comply with food standards intended to be legally binding, with only half screening every admission for malnutrition.

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food’s report, meanwhile, revealed that only 42 per cent of the London hospitals that responded to its survey cooked fresh food for children – even though the largest single cause of admissions in five-to-nine-year-olds is tooth extraction. Less than a third of respondents cooked fresh food for adults.

Once the means to produce fresh meals are in place, they can save trusts money by allowing kitchens to buy ingredients seasonally, when they are cheaper. Michelin-starred chef Phil Howard, recently tasked by the Love British Food organisation to cook their annual lunch on an NHS budget, explained that this, along with using cheaper cuts and pushing vegetables centre stage, allowed him to produce three courses rather than the two he’d been asked for. Delicious they were, too.

Andy Jones, a chef and former chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, who was there championing British food in the NHS, told me the same principles applied in real healthcare environments: Nottingham City Hospital, which prepares meals from scratch, saves £6m annually by buying fresh local ingredients – “I know with more doing, and voices like my small one shouting out, we will see real sea change.”

Unusually, it’s less a question of money than approach. Serving great hospital food takes a kitchen, skilled cooks and quality ingredients. But getting every hospital to this point requires universal legal quality standards, like those already in place in schools, that are independently monitored.

Nutrition should be taken as seriously as any other aspect of care. The NHS performs so many miracles every day – in comparison, feeding the sick should be a doddle. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Enoch Powell’s revenge