Obviously, the referendum result is a huge success for Vote Leave. Against the odds, against the weight of expectations, against the poll predictions and against the huge campaigning weight deployed by the Government, they have pulled off a remarkable victory.
At the heart of the victory are five factors:
Eurosceptics persevered. In a way, it’s a miracle that the anti-EU movement even made it this far – for the last 42 or more years, our story has been one of near-constant defeat, and fighting retreat. At almost every turn, we have been outgunned, outmanoeuvred and overwhelmed by better-funded, better-prepared and better-presented opponents. Many causes would have fizzled out under such pressures. Huge credit is owed to those dedicated individuals (like Cash, Hannan and Farage) and organisations (like The Freedom Association and Conservative Way Forward) who kept the flame alive, and steadily built a campaigning movement and a compelling case. This victory is built on the shoulders of those who survived and learned from the many battles that went before.
Vote Leave knew their market. Our movement has at times been all too prone to prize gut instinct over research and proper campaign planning. Vote Leave resisted the temptation to indulge Eurosceptics’ love of technicalities and the arcana of EU rules, and instead focused on appealing to the electorate rather than the activist base. Once they identified three messages that worked, they hammered at them relentlessly. One root of the victory can be found in Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll, which asked voters to name the crucial messages from each side. The results for Leave echoed their three key messages precisely:
By contrast, the same graphic for Remain showed a far less focused picture:
That clarity and simplicity of message undoubtedly had an impact.
The Get Out The Vote operation worked. As we predicted last night, the result was eventually decided by differential turnout. In my analysis last week of each campaign’s ground operations, I investigated the strengths and weaknesses of each side. It now appears that Leave’s machine won out on the ground – the early contrast between their over-performance in Sunderland and Remain’s under-performance in Newcastle was emblematic of a trend that spread across much of the country. They identified and activated their supporters more effectively.
Cummings and Elliott are a winning team. As we identified at the outset of the designation race, Vote Leave’s top team had the experience and skills required to fight and win the referendum. They survived some dangerous moments, defied various ‘noises off’ from other Leavers and eventually were able to bring their abilities fully to bear, with historic results. As has been well-documented, Cummings has his flaws, but after this victory it is increasingly hard for his critics to claim that they outweigh his brutally effective approach.
The politicians stuck their necks out and fought brilliantly. It’s easy now to take for granted the fact that Vote Leave’s politician supporters were on side. But it isn’t long ago that the team sheet looked quite empty. Full credit to – among many others – Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, Gisela Stuart (whom we keenly supported as a key voice in the debate), Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. The former mayor was the target of numerous attacks by the Remain campaign, and weathered a lot of criticism of his motives, but the result bears out his decision. He was risking a lot when he decided to support Brexit – and it paid off for the nation. It may yet pay out for him personally, too.
So where next? This morning’s announcement by the Prime Minister reminds us that the situation is highly unpredictable. But I can reveal that Vote Leave are already moving into a new stage – the organisation will be remodelled and will continue to operate during the process of negotiations with the EU and the eventual Brexit, to ensure that the referendum result is honoured in full.