Discord in Britain grows with each passing day. At the moment the chaos is centred on Parliament. The failure to reach any compromise around Brexit this week sends a message to the rest of the world. To outsiders, Britain, a country once admired for its strength, dependability and steadfastness, looks increasingly unstable.
The only real path through the mess is the middle ground; a resolution that may not suit either Brexiters or Remainers perfectly but that will allow the country to move forward as a United Kingdom. For this to happen, politicians have to commit to supporting the outcome of the Brexit process, no matter what that may be. MPs on all sides must start showing maturity, pledge to progress as one and put the good of the country before individual ambition. As a former politician myself, I’ve seen the damage done by political parties putting ideals ahead of the greater good. A divided nation is a nation in peril.
You’d hope that, if there is a second referendum (and after over a week of voting we still don’t know what’s going to happen) the people in charge of communicating what’s at stake for voters will studiously avoid the mistakes of the 2016 referendum campaign, or Project Fear as it became known. That campaign failed to make the case for Remain because it didn’t offer a unifying goal for people to get behind.
People don’t tend to vote with their heads, they vote with their hearts. Any campaign message must be simple, it must rouse the emotions and get people behind a single inspiring idea. Basing a campaign around fear and scaremongering did not work in 2016 because people have become immune to shock tactics. If messaging starts to appears sensationalised, doubt sets in and the impact is lost.
We all care about how we’re perceived. A second referendum campaign could remind people that the world is watching and that voters are in charge of how the country and its citizens are seen on the world stage for generations to come. They might be furious or at their wits’ end with the entire process, but the fact remains that the impact of their vote will be felt hundreds of years into the future.
Honesty around campaign messaging is crucial. No one has a perfect solution and politicians need to start being truthful about that. It’s the only way to cut through to a very jaded, angry and polarised population. Honesty can risky, but it’s a risk that will pay off. Nike faced a huge backlash after its Kaepernick campaign, but once the Twitterstorm died down, it generated a lot of positive feedback and was praised for its bravery. To be brave and honest you must be prepared to take some heat. Regardless of who you provoke, your message will prevail.
Alongside any communications around a second referendum there should be a separate campaign with the sole purpose of healing the wounds that Brexit has inflicted on the populace and bringing people from warring factions together. Britons have to get on to a degree for the country to progress. A unifying campaign that inspires some much needed kinship between people and encourages them to come together no matter what Brexit brings could help repair some of the damage that the Brexit process has done to brand Britain. More than ever this country needs a galvanising message that reminds people of their similarities, not their differences.
Eduardo Maruri is president of Grey Europe. Prior to entering the advertising industry he was a politician in his native Ecuador. He will be at The Drum Arms on Tuesday 19 March for a special edition of 10 Questions With... during Advertising Week. Register here.