Week-in-Review: Will embracing the language of Brexit benefit Labour?

Take Again Management. These notorious three phrases, devised by the official Vote Go away camp throughout the 2016 EU referendum marketing campaign, ought to strike concern into the center of any religious anti-Brexit activist. It’s this rhetorical flourish, repeatedly incessantly by 2016-2019, to which behavioural and political scientists alike attribute the success of the Brexit marketing campaign. 

There isn’t a denying the political energy of the slogan. Dominic Cummings, the scheming thoughts behind Take Again Management, has written complete blogs devoted to its much-maligned genius. He credit the “again” facet of the slogan as evoking a robust developed intuition: the truth that we hate dropping issues, particularly “management”.

Now Keir Starmer, a trenchant advocate of “stay” all through the Brexit saga, has shamelessly stolen the slogan for his personal ends. Within the Labour chief’s first speech of 2023 on Thursday, Sir Keir promised to “embrace” the Brexit-securing message as a part of a broader mission to ship a “decade of nationwide renewal”

Jacket off, sleeves rolled up and framed towards a backdrop of heavy equipment, you can be forgiven for pondering that an election was already underway. Actually, there isn’t any doubting the extent of electoral calculation that went into Starmer’s fastidiously choreographed efficiency.

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“We are going to embrace the take again management message — however we’ll flip it from a slogan into an answer, from a catchphrase into change”, Starmer rallied. It was the arrange for the announcement of recent coverage, a brand new “take again management invoice”, set to seem within the first King’s speech of a Labour authorities.

In essence, the proposed laws is a deftly repackaged model of Gordon Brown’s constitutional report. Correcting the advert hoc course of councils need to undergo to barter a devolved settlement, it’s designed to institute a authorized framework for a full programme of devolution. The invoice would supply communities sweeping new powers over sectors reminiscent of childcare provision, tradition, transport, employment provision and housing.

The important thing distinction between Starmer’s speech and Brown’s report is framing. In dressing Brown’s devolution proposals within the discursive trappings of post-Brexit “management”, Starmer needs to capitalise on the identical anti-Westminster sentiment Cummings exploited in 2016. It’s about embracing misplaced “pink wall” voters with a well-recognized message. 

However for Starmer, who labelled the Brexit vote a “disaster” when he resigned from Jeremy Corbyn’s entrance bench as a shadow immigration minister in 2016, this can be a conversion of damascene proportions. The one-time remainer-in-chief will now face accusations of Brexit hypocrisy from each side of the remain-leave divide.

A post-Brexit imaginative and prescient for Labour

By means of the Corbyn years, the Labour Celebration was neither a wholeheartedly stay car, nor did it personal a model of Brexit. However since Starmer took over as Labour chief in 2020, crafting such a imaginative and prescient has been a precedence. 

Acknowledging his remain-voting previous on Thursday, Starmer advised attendees that he “couldn’t disagree with the fundamental case” of the Go away marketing campaign. “It’s not unreasonable for us to recognise the need for communities to face on their very own ft, it’s what Take Again Management meant”, the Labour chief added. 

It’s undoubtedly true that when the UK voted to go away the European Union in 2016, emotions ran far deeper than mere disdain for Brussels. Starmer now senses that the sensation of powerlessness that knowledgeable the 2016 vote is fertile floor for Labour initiative.

So in distinction to the Conservative imaginative and prescient for Brexit, outlined by the summary notion of “sovereignty”, fears over immigration and burdensome EU regulation, Starmer needs to retell the story by the lens of localism and “levelling up”. It marks an audacious try and side-step points surrounding Brexit and deal with the much-foretold, if largely illusory, promised land past. It’s a tactic the Go away marketing campaign adopted from the very starting. 

Above all, the “take again management invoice” underlines the rising confidence inside the Labour chief’s workplace that Starmer can tackle the Conservatives in their very own yard. The Labour chief now needs to defenestrate Sunak fully, leaving the Conservative occasion intellectually limbless by the subsequent election, anticipated in 2024.

The dangers 

However there are dangers to Starmer’s new strategy. By pinching the very phrase that he was so vehemently against as a Remainer, Conservatives can paint Starmer as a shifty  managerialist pushed purely by electoral calculation. Duly, international secretary James Cleverly rubbished Starmer’s speech on Thursday as a “complete load of nothing”. 

It’s also the case that no degree of artistic sloganeering will enthuse those that stay deeply against Brexit. A brand new ballot performed for GB Information has discovered a 9-point lead for rejoining the EU (42 per cent to 33 per cent) — the information underlines that Starmer dangers misreading the temper of the nation in adopting Cummings’ Take Again Management slogan. Whereas Starmer says devolution would be the “centrepiece” of Labour’s first legislative program in authorities, localism, irrespective of the discursive trappings, will show no silver bullet to Britain’s post-Brexit troubles. There isn’t a hiding that the UK’s economic system continues to be the worst performing within the G7.

2024 priorities 

Each Labour and the Conservative occasion need to inform a constant story within the lead-up to 2024. For Sunak, that is about Conservative “priorities” vis-a-vis the economic system, the NHS and small boats; for Starmer, the technique is predicated on stealing Conservative thunder on Brexit and levelling up, changing into extra comfy with points hitherto thought of taboo in Labour circles. 

It units up a captivating battle between the 2 occasion figureheads, as each look to run deeply presidential campaigns. So whereas the brand new 12 months political sermons could also be at an finish, the 2024-focused electioneering has solely simply begun.