June 21, 2016 | Kelly

Great brands need both logic and emotion – so do Referendum campaigns. Simon Barrow makes the emotional case for Europe.

EU-UK flag2

Simon’s talk at Woodbridge 9 June 2016

I recently met an elderly man at a bus stop and discovered he was a 94-year-old D-Day veteran (Royal Marines). I asked him how he felt about the referendum and he said —

What was the point of us going through all that to liberate Europe and then to go and leave them?

Liberation clearly had an enduring emotional impact for him just as all great brands should and that is the case I am going to make. It’s about time since both sides in this debate have not overtly dwelt on feelings. Meanwhile, they have failed in four ways:

  1. Attacks and counter attacks which bore people rigid.
  2. Never giving an inch is such a turnoff. I can name one honourable exception. During a City conference with both sides, a BMW executive firmly made the remain case in the interests of the UK motor industry (employing all told 800,000). Next up was the Leave supporter Lord Owen. His first words were,’ we have just heard a powerful presentation and of course there will be losers if we leave’.
  3. Making human contact with wit, music, innovation, surprise, humanity. Not seen any of that.
  4. Demonstrating a broad understanding of the audiences.

Leave and Remain campaigns have consisted of big salvos and then counter-salvos. Punch and Judy politics on a giant scale with 12-inch guns – boom boom – like the battle of Jutland commemorated last week. That was over in a day or so, this one has been going on for months.

Without emotion, campaigns fail even if you think you have killer facts on your side. Emotion will bypass information you don’t like. Remember the saying: ‘Someone convinced against their will remains unconvinced’. Many of us are more comfortable using logic to make a point and are nervous about using emotion but when you really mean it it makes all the difference.

This problem is not new when it comes to Britain’s relationship with Europe. For decades, our leaders have focussed on what was in ‘Britain’s Best Interest’.  What a guarded, mean, dry phrase that is. Would you ever describe a marriage in this way outside Mrs Bennett’s views on Elizabeth and Mr Darcy?  Gordon Brown’s storming address just before the Scots referendum had plenty of emotion but what leading UK politician while in power has ever done that for Britain and Europe?

The economist Joseph Schumpeter (the Austrian emigrant to the US in the 1930s) made this memorable remark: Capitalism is not just a matter of counting coins, it is a romance and an adventure!  That is what the European idea needs but nobody has tried to romance the Brits. Remain may get there nevertheless but we will still have millions of bitter, angry leave voters who will not have changed one jot. What kind of victory is that? One nation anyone?

So, what do I think makes the emotional case for Europe and the UK being part of it? Of course, this is subjective – all I can do is say how I feel.

  1. A bigger canvas. I was born and brought up in Cumbria . Seeing the news after the river Eden flooded this winter I heard the familiar voices of those in Carlisle who had suffered once again – prompting a massive, instant jolt of childhood memory. While I have long seen Cumbria in the context of the UK, I now see the UK in the context of Europe. My sense of nationalism has broadened.
  1. Shared civilisation. There is a ‘clash of civilisations’ rearing its ugly head throughout the world. Europeans need to realise that we share a civilisation whose beliefs and interests can best be protected by acting together. If we do not feel emotionally part of that it is hard to do so.
  1. Our tragic past. Nobody knows more about the horrors of war than Europe does hence our resolve to reject extremist thinking which, as we saw last week, can lead to tragedy. Europe has endured fascist and dictator led regimes and centuries of violence among its people. Today’s Europeans remain determined to consign these attitudes to our tragic past. That is why we are determined to respect, share and cooperate. Europe’s leaders, with all their faults, seem in a different league to what we read about leaders, and some prospective leaders, in say Russia, the United States and the Middle East at this time.
  1. The search for peacetrue peace involves freedom from tyranny and a generous tolerance…but true peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in cooperation between all peoples. You cannot just pray and wish for it. There are practical steps to be taken. That quote came from Christian Faith and Practice in the experience of the Society of Friends 1988. Peace was the original objective of the European founders post WW2 and their first step was forming the European Coal and Steel community.
  1. Shared values. Where else in the great regions of the world might you find 500 million people the majority of whom share the values of Justice, education, tolerance, social democracy, social mobility, fair employment and a belief in both capitalism and active government intervention?
  1. Pride in something precious. If that is the case then should we not be proud of what this unique vision has achieved? Where else in history have major countries worked together on so much in just 70 years? The world needs this beacon of good human behaviour and middle way political thinking which Europe represents. There is something very precious here for us all. Think what the vision of Europe could do elsewhere – how about another region with a tragic past and present ie the Middle East (Sunnis, Shias and Israelis?)
  1. Real commitment. For years, British representatives in European discussions have failed to convey enthusiasm for the idea. Surely, a committed club member carries far more weight and therefore and can get tough issues addressed. Who wants to help a carping, grudging non-team player?
  1. Pride in Europeans. At a recent Referendum meeting, I heard the TV producer Humphrey Burton, saying his life was enhanced by other Europeans. He said, of course Mozart was German but he is our Mozart too. Made me think who would be my Europeans? Here goes for starters: Shakespeare, Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Federico Fellini, Monet, Picasso, Yves Montand, JK Rowling, Anne Frank, Marie Stopes, Django Reinhart, Marlene Dietrich, Martin Luther, John Maynard Keynes and Willi Brandt. Where else could such people have come from? Was it not our varied, innovative challenging geography and history that made them? 
  1. Preserving the UK. Here is my final thought and it is closer to home – it’s the desire to keep the UK together. According to the polls, London, the South East, the Irish, Scots and Welsh have stronger feelings for Europe than the rest of England. Given Brexit, the Scots may understandably press for another referendum. I would feel would feel bereft if it went but sadly The United Kingdom, like Europe itself, has not had the emotional rationale it needs. In 2014, HMG made the commercial case but avoided emotion about the UK itself.

What is England on its own without the Celts? What is England without, emotionally, London?  Whatever the result this week, I hope the lessons will include the need for leaders to show how they feel not just how they calculate.

Simon Barrow