Politico has this, which I encountered this morning. It’s the usual behind-the-scenes sort of thing. As a Labour Party member / activist / whatever, the following piques my interest:
Senior staff from the campaign “begged” Corbyn to do a rally with the prime minister, according to a senior source who was close to the Remain campaign. Corbyn wanted nothing to do with the Tory leader, no matter what was at stake. Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister whom Cameron vanquished in 2010, was sent to plead with Corbyn to change his mind. Corbyn wouldn’t. Senior figures in the Remain camp, who included Cameron’s trusted communications chief Craig Oliver and Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign guru, were furious.
Even at more basic levels of campaigning, Labour were refusing to cooperate. The party would not share its voter registration lists with Stronger In, fearing the Tories would steal the information for the next general election. “Our data is our data,” one senior Labour source said when asked about the allegation.
In desperation, the Remain strategists discussed reaching out to the White House to intervene directly. Obama had met Corbyn during a trip to London in April, when the American president argued forcefully for Remain. They wondered: Maybe Obama could call the Labour leader and convince him to campaign with Cameron?
Don’t bother, Labour aides told them. Nobody was going to coax their boss into sharing a public platform with Cameron. The idea was dropped before it reached the White House.
Some comments. Jeremy Corbyn is being thoroughly criticised within (and without) the party for his lukewarm embrace of remain, and his (putting it charitably) nuanced approach to the campaign. I’m not sure how much of the motivation for the revolt in the Parliamentary Labour Party is a function of sincere misgivings about his mishandling of the campaign, and how much is political opportunism (I’m thinking two thirds the latter), but it’s a safe bet that the sacking of Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary, was the opposite of a smart move. Of course, the core Corbynista support will brook no critique of their messiah (full disclosure: I voted for Corbyn, but he’s not a messianic figure. He’s no more than a highly principled, at times bumbling politician). This is shaping up to be a not insignificant problem for the party precisely when we need a strong, focussed opposition.
I see, and am some degree receptive to, the argument that one reason for the failure of Labour in Scotland during the general election was the party’s decision to campaign united with the Tories and Liberal Democrats against independence. The Conservative brand in general and David Cameron in particular were toxic north of the border, and we opted for guilt by association. That said, one or two joint appearances would have not killed Corbyn. Furthermore, Labour In was an anaemic campaign at the national level (at the local level here, it was well organised). I doubt a stronger Labour-specific remain campaign would have on its own turned the tide and clawed back the 550,000 votes we’d have needed to swing this thing, but nationally, we were limited at best.
The data thing is an interesting line. Labour are far more data-driven than any other party on this wee island. The ‘voter registration’ data, to my knowledge, comes from the electoral register, which is available to any political party. While we’re data-driven, it’s a fairly unsophisticated approach engineered for GOTV. It was state of the art in the mid 1990s, but it’s not a patch on the micro targeting of the current era (however, it’s still vastly superior to what the other parties have, and does give us a marginal edge . . . which we need as we don’t have anywhere near the financial resources of the party opposite). We’re getting better at it, especially at the local level here where we have a few people who understand the utility of 21st Century approaches to data, but it’s still largely an archaic process.
Furthermore, on election day our data are best used to mobilise our voters. We generally know who they are, where they live, and how they’ve been (self-reported) voting in past elections, and our “boards” and “road groups” are optimised to get our voters to the polls. We don’t bother knocking on the doors of known Conservatives, obviously, as it would be self-defeating to remind them that the local election is happening when they had forgotten about it. On referendum day, however, the data were close to worthless. Given support for remain cut well across party lines, and data hadn’t been sufficiently gathered / entered in the month prior to the referendum, we were flying blind on the day. GOTV data were drawn up using mosaic and socio-demographic characteristics, which is under the circumstances probably the best approach. However, it was frustrating, as many of our ‘targets’ voted leave or had leave posters in their windows, and many remain voters / addresses with remain posters were not on our sheets.
Long story short, I don’t see how sharing Labour’s data with the Stronger In campaign would have made a difference to the result. I will say this, however; Stronger In were flush with cash, something I wasn’t used to experiencing.
Finally, to answer Lemieux’s appeal in his excellent post:
I don’t know how many Brexit voters fall into the remorseful category. But I remember seeing somewhere (HELP ME BROCKINGTON) that a large majority of Brexit voters assumed that Remain would win. For what was surely a decisive number of Brexit voters, the vote was not a considered view that leaving the EU would be better than remaining, but rather was a vehicle for sending a message to British elites.
This is mostly anecdotal, but the Ashcroft poll I discussed yesterday does have this:
Seven voters in ten expected a victory for remain, including a majority (54%) of those who voted to leave. Leave voters who voted UKIP at the 2015 election were the only group who (by just 52% to 48%) expected a leave victory.