On May 18, a white and red referendum communication arrived concerning Brexit.
Underlined and in bold in the second paragraph were these words:
the facts from independent experts
but four of the five facts on that page came from the government: the Treasury and HMRC (for my overseas readers, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). The fifth came from the left-wing London School of Economics.
Overleaf, six ‘experts’ offered their opinions on Brexit. The worst, SpouseMouse and I thought, came from the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives:
Staying in (Europe) is better for the NHS, it is better for women, and it is better for midwives.
‘How so?’ SpouseMouse asked.
Similarly, what makes the head of the Royal College of Midwives an expert on the EU referendum?
I spent some time reading and studying this referendum communication.
The facts on the first page, designed to instil fear, were questionable. How would our weekly shop go up in price when most of what is available in supermarkets and smaller shops comes from the UK? How would we have spending cuts when we would notionally be saving hundreds of millions of pounds a week that normally goes to the EU?
The quotes on the next page appealed to the emotions but said very little. They came from a broad group, including Lady Karren Brady (Conservative), a union leader and Virgin’s Richard Branson.
The white and red optics looked familiar.
Finally, I read the fine print at the bottom:
Promoted by Will Straw on behalf of Britain Stronger in Europe …
Will Straw is Jack Straw’s son. For those who live overseas, Jack Straw, now retired, was a lifelong Labour politician who held several prominent posts during their time in government between 1997 and 2010.
Wikipedia’s entry on Will Straw is instructive. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.
a British policy researcher and Labour Party politician. He worked as a civil servant, founded the political blog Left Foot Forward and is currently an associate director of the think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research, specialising in climate change, energy and transport. He is the son of prominent Labour party politician, Jack Straw, and was himself the failed 2015 Labour party candidate for the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, located next to his father’s in Lancashire.
In 2009, he was as one of 12 governors removed by Lambeth council amid concerns over financial management and poor teaching at Henry Fawcett Primary in Kennington.
Along with Euan Blair (son of former British prime minister Tony Blair), Stephen Kinnock (son of former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock) and Joe Dromey (son of Labour MPs Harriet Harman & Jack Dromey), Straw has been criticised for being a ‘Red Prince’, a term popularised by the blog Guido Fawkes, which refers to the son of a Labour politician who goes into politics.
With this written, Straw’s referendum communication goes in the bin.
That said, it demonstrates the importance of reading the fine print.
If you would like to discuss Straw’s communication, please feel free to comment below.