UK Election: Smash and Grab to Victory

1/        It’s Election Day in the UK. The culmination of a fascinating period of political upheaval with two leaders – Boris and Jeremy Corbyn – that could not be more different than David Cameron and Tony Blair.  They eschew modernity for a new polarizing populism, chucking the old rules into the cut.  This is not the hopeful UK of Love Actually, the stoicism of Dunkirk, or the dash of 007. This election is a Peaky Blinders smash and grab.

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2/        Boris has remade the UK Tories. This guy.  An excellent writer with sense of humour, he was bedevilled by personal scandal as MP. And lying. Pulls off election as London mayor in a Labour city. Shores up David Cameron’s campaign in 2015 that led to surprise majority. At last-minute, joins Leave campaign and, unquestionably, made the difference. No Boris, no Brexit. His partnership with Michael Gove trumped Remain establishment.

3/        Instantly, David Cameron resigns from office. A leadership campaign kicks off (the Brits don’t mess around). Boris is not ready and stumbles. At deadline for filing, Michael Gove (Judas) wields the knife against Boris by jumping in race suddenly. Boris is shocked out of the race he was supposed to win. Theresa May emerges as safe alternative to stabilize divided Tory party. Gove loses and is sent to purgatory, Boris to Foreign Office. May starts strong with positioning that foreshadows a shakeup of Tory base. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-from-the-new-prime-minister-theresa-may

4/        May moves to an election within the year, with a huge lead in the polls.  I mean, she’s going to clean up against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (more on him shortly). Her campaign is a disaster. Textbook case of fuzzy strategy and failure to execute.  She falls short of majority by 5 seats.  Worse yet, she is already a dead duck.  Hobbled by blown opportunity, May attempts to finesse her Brexit deal through Parliament and fails again, again, and again.

5/        Meanwhile, Boris flew the coop to sit as backbench MP. He wants no part of wearing May’s deal.  But Gove was resuscitated to serve in Cabinet (he is a clever boy) to try to rally Brexiteers. Out in the countryside, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage (leader most likely to enjoy having a pint with) starts Brexit Party and is inhabiting the Tory electoral base like necrotizing fasciitis.

6/        Finally, Jeremy Corbyn. In 2015… hold it… need to go back more… in 2010, the Tories had a plurality of seats under David Cameron but far short of majority.  Labour PM Gordon Brown (UK’s Paul Martin) tried to extend Labour to a fourth term and failed. The Lib-Dems negotiated a true coalition government with the Tories with leader Nick Clegg serving as Deputy PM for five years.

7/        Labour has a leadership vote. Unlike Tories, this is membership-based vote.  Labour is divided into Blairites and Brownites.  Blairite David Miliband, a former Foreign Minister, is seen as frontrunner.  His younger BROTHER Ed, a Brownite, challenges him. Political fratricide.  Ed wins! Based on support from lefties and union supporters. It’s a bit of a mess, especially at Christmas dinner in the Miliband household.  Ed is not really up to it but he is competitive in the polls. The 2015 election is going to be a horse race!

8/        David Cameron, and his advisor Sir Lynton Crosby, with Boris’s help, surgically detach Lib-Dem voters.  You see, Scotland was feeling quite uppity at the time and Middle England did not see Red Ed as strong enough to preserve the union.  Cameron shocks by winning a majority. Five more years! Just have to deal with this election promise to hold a Brexit referendum then it’s onwards and upwards. (Of course, he loses referendum, resigns immediately, and squanders the 2015 majority).

9/        Ed is toast.  He didn’t even have time to change his underwear before resigning.  Again, the Brits don’t mess around. There’s a leadership contest and many Labour MPs jump in.  While the members vote, candidates must have papers signed by at least 40 or 50 MPs in order to qualify.  Jeremy Corbyn is running around getting signatures at last minute.  People sign because they feel sorry for him.  He has no chance of winning!

10/      Here’s the thing about political parties.  They are vulnerable to takeovers. Few people actually belong to parties.  An emerging group, Momentum, decides to take the piss out of the Labour establishment by backing Corbyn.  Corbyn represents what is on the minds of disillusioned activists. Blair brought them the Gulf War and ‘New Labour’ that looked like moderate Toryism to many. Gordon Brown hated Tony Blair but he was very much associated with that agenda. Ed was transitional and not strong.  Here comes ‘Jezza’ who voices the frustration and it catches fire.

11/      This is all happening around the same time as Trump is catching fire and Bernie is making his move.  The insurgents are on the move in the industrialized world, and in Jezza’s case, the party rules work for him. Mass sign ups and support from existing base steamroller over establishment candidates.  Labour grandees are sputtering in their protestations. Blair, Brown, et al. issue dire warnings.  No one listens.  Corbyn wins big.  What now?

12/      The Labour Caucus is having none of it.  Not long after, there is a push to remove Corbyn. He is not a conventional leader and routinely is taken to task by the merciless UK media. The Deputy Leader (who is not Corbyn’s man) returns to another caucus revolt early from Glastonbury, interrupting the good time he was having at the silent disco. Ultimately, Corbyn consents to a new leadership contest.  Finally… let’s get a real Leader, says Labour MPs.

13/      Corbyn wins again! He increases his margin.

14/      Theresa May is, like, “I’m having an election.  This guy is a clown, Labour is a disaster”.  We are now in 2017.  Please follow along.

15/      May is way, way ahead.  Her campaign chokes. Corbyn has one of the great comebacks of modern political history.  This is actually his first election campaign as leader after TWO leadership processes. Turns out UK voters like his sincerity and honesty.  “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” becomes an anthem on the left.  In fact, the election is polarizing between the two parties in England where most of the seats reside. Fun fact: Tories and Labours have held 1-2 position exclusively for about a century.

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Two party domination by Tories and Labour.  Lib-Dems and predecessor parties peaked out at 25% (1983)

16/      Corbyn is secured in his leadership.  It’s virtually a hung Parliament and Corbyn has centre stage across the dispatch box from the PM.

17/      [Intermission]

18/      Fast forward to summer 2019. May is out, Boris is in. After all of the feeble attempts to get her Brexit deal passed, the party turned to Boris. It wasn’t close, he won in a landslide. He arrives to office with his advisor, the Dark Lord, Dominic Cummings, who masterminded the Leave campaign.  Who is at Boris’s side in Cabinet? Judas! Boris and Michael Gove have kissed and made up.

19/      Jeremy Corbyn is still there, looking a bit wobbly, and does not have clear position on Brexit.  At first, they have Boris on the run.  He wants to have an early election but new legislation blocks him without consent of the House.  He wants to have the leverage of threatening to crash out of the EU without a deal. A majority of MPs flip out and force him through some humiliating votes.  Boris removes the whip from over 20 Tory Remain MPs, including Churchill’s grandson! Things are getting rough. Elites are aghast! Tory and Labour MPs are joining the Lib-Dems, who have the clearest Remain position.

20/      Why is Labour so fuzzy on Brexit? Many Labour voters in their traditional heartland outside of London voted Leave.  They are very split while Tories are more Leave than Remain, and Boris is betting that Tory Remainers fear Corbyn more than they fear Brexit.  The Lib Dems are banking on owning Remain and also riding unicorns chasing rainbows.  They are about to get squeezed like a lemon in a lemonade factory.

21/      Boris negotiates a deal! It’s oven-ready! Pop it in the microwave, let’s get Brexit done.  Enough’s enough!  We’re getting ready to have the election. Time to see the Queen.  Corbyn’s response, while fending off serious charges of anti-semitism in his ranks, is to make the ballot question all about health care. People don’t care about Brexit, they want someone to stand up for them.

22/      At the heart of Boris’s strategy is a ‘smash and grab’ of Labour voters in traditional Labour seats.  It would be like Stephen Harper trying to win East Vancouver.  Except, Boris might pull it off.  British voters feel like they know him.  They know he’s glib, stretches the truth, and puts his foot in his mouth, but, like Trump, there is high familiarity with him.  He’s been around a long time, leading a public life.  His flaws have already been discounted. They know what they’re dealing with.

23/      Personality aside, Boris has a proposition: get Brexit done and, unlike Thatcher and other Tories, he will spend bigly on health care and other core services. No more austerity!  He is coming for 30-50 year old working women.  He wants the mums.  He wants the union guy.  He is saying, “I don’t care about London bankers, I’m with you blokes in Birmingham!” In fact, he was out delivering groceries in Leeds this week in the early hours (before hiding in a walk-in cooler to avoid the media). He is looking to realign the political map.  Theresa May got started on this and Boris aims to finish it.

24/      Corbyn’s play is to remind people that the Tories don’t care for regular people – working people – and hopes to boost turnout among younger people, who strongly support Remain and the values that Corbyn represents. They are still singing “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” in Liverpool. Like Canada, the Conservatives in the UK have low support among under 35s.  They own old people.  The election battle is with middle-aged, workforce-aged voters.

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25/      The Lib-Dems have been cast aside despite floor crossings and thirsting for an election. They have fallen flat with new leader Jo Swinson. She has been unable to move the dial. In an existential battle between two populist insurgents, the Lib-Dems find it very difficult to elbow in to relevance.

26/      This post is about 2% political science and 98% soap opera. But there are a few things about the UK politics and this election that stand out:

27/      There is way more outspoken behaviour from backbenchers in the UK. Professor Greg Lyle counselled me that it’s because there are more MPs at Westminster (650 in total).  The chances of promotion are much lower so backbenchers feel more freedom to do as they like. There is no question that Westminster is a much, much, more vibrant cauldron of political debate than Ottawa.  I blame all Canadian parties for this. They are too focused on party discipline and dissent.  Loosen up!  Maybe we need more MPs in Ottawa? Did I say that out loud?

28/      Parliament really matters in the UK. The level of debate is high.  There are no desks.  Many MPs must stand at Prime Minister’s Questions (once a week).  There’s a sense that debates can turn issues. Even the TV angles are better, covering reactions of MPs and creating a sense of the environment in the Chamber. Maybe I’m mythologizing a bit, but I would sure like Canada to do a better job emulating Mother Parliament.

29/      The media is very diverse.  While Boris has taken on the BBC (and others), the reality is that there are clearly Labour papers (The Guardian), Tory papers (Times of London), Brexit papers (Daily Mail), and many others in between and all over. It may be suffocating for those in politics, but it also enlivens debate. BBC coverage is generally excellent, IMO.

30/      The advertising is more creative and to the point than anything we saw in the recent Canadian election.  The main parties are keying on emotions, using digital as key medium. In this election, Boris is rejecting old rules of mainstream media.  Declining some debates, and refusing outright to do a popular interview show. While the BBC sputters indignation, Boris is happy to have that fight.

31/      There are many more parties represented in Parliament than the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.  First past the post also produces Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, Ulster Unionists, a Green MP, independents, and seven Sinn Fein members who refuse to take their seats. It’s a dynamic place.

32/      Around the UK, candidates will gather in their constituency at a central polling location where they will climb on stage to hear the results together, each wearing a candidate ribbon bearing their party’s colours. The losers will congratulate the winner – a much more community-spirited ceremony than the Canadian tradition of hanging out exclusively with supporters at campaign offices.

33/      I think Boris is going to pull off his smash and grab in the Labour heartlands.  As Tory grandees like Rt. Hon. John Major reject him, he gains elsewhere. He put Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party to bed. He may lose his own seat in London, but may gain Tony Blair’s old seat in northern England. He will receive a working majority and implement Brexit.  Can he hang on to be a competent prime minister? Who knows.  Labour will give Corbyn the heave-ho finally, but it will be Momentum that holds the cards.  Their own smash and grab of the Labour Party apparatus likely continues.

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Lib Dems fading down the stretch. Light blue line is Brexit Party.  Peaked around the time that Theresa May left office.  Boris has put them to bed.  Night, night.

34/ What happens when a powerful movement drives the politics of a party away from the mainstream (and victory)?  Is it a policy problem, or is it just a matter of leadership? The reality is that its problems pre-date Corbyn and he may have been the one to breathe new life into it. A new Corbynista could be the PM next time.  Our parties in Canada are very vulnerable to such movements ‘taking over’.  That’s democracy.  Anyone can join.  Don’t blame Momentum, or dairy farmers, or pro-lifers – anyone can join, but most don’t.

35/      What Boris and Corbyn realize is this – power is ‘out there’, to be harnessed. A strong message is the power to break, reshape and coalesce an electoral base, or motivate a narrow group to action, to supersede a passive majority.  Either way, it goes against the old rules. They are both prepared to “alienate the base” in order to – they hope – grow their movements. They are making new rules.

36/      Thanks for reading, if you made it.  This started as a tweet storm and ended as a blog post.  At 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern, the polls close. BBC will release immediately the results of exit polls that forecast what will happen with analysis by the brilliant Professor John Courtice.  Unlike Canada, the UK rolls out results slowly, over 6-8 hours.  It will be great entertainment, as usual.

(Apologies for errors and emissions)

Whither JWR?

A chain of events has cascaded upon the federal government and Liberal Party of Canada over the past week.

How will this end?

First, where are things at?

  • Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet.
  • She has not resigned from Caucus.  She remains a Liberal MP.
  • She is the presumptive Liberal nominee in Vancouver-Granville for the 2019 federal election, having been ‘green lit’ by the Party in 2018.
  • She has not voted against the government on a whipped vote.  In fact, as a senior member of Cabinet, she helped shape the government’s agenda over the past three-plus years.

As far as I know, the only ‘difficulty’ that exists is disagreement, and related events, stemming from the SNC-Lavalin issue.

Thus, I am going to assume that Wilson-Raybould remains a Liberal in the partisan and ideological sense.  An assumption, but I see no evidence to the contrary.

So, what next?

In Canada, we have not demonstrated a lot of tolerance for public dissent within political parties.  The media punishes political parties for dissent, treating it as a sign of weak leadership.  Dissent certainly exists privately.  Every political caucus in Canada has a wide range of opinion about what its party leadership should be doing and usually a considerable amount of complaining.  It mainly stays inside the room.

In major political parties, not everyone gets along. Uneasy alliances exist, in fact, they are essential to the growth and success of parties. Chretien-Martin.  PET-Turner.  Mulroney-Clark.  Harper-MacKay. Cabinets and caucuses don’t have to like each other to work together. In the UK, dissent is much more of the norm and widely accepted.  MPs routinely challenge and speak out against leadership.

It doesn’t always have to be bunnies and rainbows in order for people to serve together and to campaign alongside together.  A common enemy unites, come election time.

Whither JWR?

Had the shuffle not happened, I assume she would still be Minister of Justice (and the fact the shuffle did happen in the way it did will go down as one of the top unforced errors of the first term).  This would be playing out behind the scenes.

It seems the reactions to the public disagreement exacerbated the situation to the point where she resigned from Cabinet.

Is it possible for her to remain as a Liberal MP?

If, as outlined above, she remains a ‘Liberal’ and continues to support the broad policy agenda of the government, not only should she remain a Liberal MP if she chooses, but she is basically untouchable.  Party leadership would have to proactively rescind her candidacy, which I am sure they would be loath to do.

The support of her local membership is not a requirement, however, it is probable that she is well supported locally.

There is an assumption held by many that the only meaningful way to contribute in politics is to serve in Cabinet. But one can make significant contributions outside Cabinet, especially an MP who has a strong national profile.

Over the past week, Wilson-Raybould has enhanced her stature in Canada. She has a constituency of support out there in the country.  When she speaks on an issue, she will be heard.  She would be a force to be reckoned with in Parliament.

Most Liberals are unhappy about these events, and some have come to the public defense of the PM, and others to ‘Team Jody’. Such controversies compromise the ability of colleagues to get re-elected, and may even jeopardize the survival of the government.  It’s also fair comment that almost all Liberal MPs are all there because of one guy – Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau – who rescued the Party from oblivion and led them to an improbable majority in 2015.   In fact, the sense of invulnerability has contributed to the magnitude of this issue. Yes, Liberals do owe Justin Trudeau. But, they also owe him their honest opinion, for the good of his leadership and the party.

Wilson-Raybould staying in Parliament, serving as an MP, running for re-election as a Liberal is not something that is really being contemplated publicly in the current context.  It seems to be assumed that this is leading to a break-up.  By staying put, Wilson-Raybould would have presence in Parliament and serve as a moral conscience from outside Cabinet. In time, who knows where the road will take her?

She could cross the floor and serve with another party.  But if she continues to identify as a ‘Liberal’, that doesn’t work, and where would she cross to, anyway? Neither the Conservatives nor NDP would seem to be attractive options for her.

Or she should could leave federal politics, but that would be regrettable.  She has barely started, and Vancouver-Granville voters permitting, should have more runway ahead. This is about more than one MP’s political future  Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould is the first indigenous woman to ever be elected from British Columbia.  It took 148 years to get there.

Making room for disagreement and dissent is messy, and as a former political manager, it made my life complicated and could be very frustrating.  But, it’s ultimately good for the system.

Let the events of SNC-Lavalin play out.  Changes can be made, lessons can be learned, people will move on to other issues once that has all taken place.

“How this ends” could well be JWR on the ballot as a Liberal in October 2019.  In fact, it would be a new beginning, for everyone.

(photo credit: CBC)

Two maps: the cultural divide in the US and UK

There has been much discussion about the ‘divides’ in the US election.  Race, gender, and income status all play a part.  I would add a cultural divide between Cities and beyond the Cities, which revealed itself in the US election and also in Brexit.  In both elections, the popular vote was very close nation-wide but very concentrated (either way) at the local levels.

US presidential results by County:

Democrats mainly concentrated in big cities and university districts with notable exceptions of black and hispanic voting clusters, and some rural Democrats (eg. Vermont).  In Democratic states like Washington, Oregon, and Illinois, you see the polarization where most of the geography went Trump while the major cities went with Hillary.

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Brexit results:

Focusing on England itself, it was London (Remain) versus the countryside and regional cities (Leave).

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Source: Vancouver Sun

Brexit: Polls are split, but Market has decided

Updated (3 hours before polls close, June 23)

Interesting piece in The Telegraph that shows slight lead for Remain.

There will not be an election-style exit poll, but YouGov plans to release an election day poll at the moment the polls close (2pm PT / 5pm ET).  If there is going to be a shocking outcome, the first glimpse may be right then.

Gamblers are 84% certain of a Remain victory.  Do they know something we don’t know?  They are probably reading the polls as their main source of information.  If the polls are wrong, they’re wrong. UBC’s Sauder School Election Prediction market is made up of bettors betting real money to predict election outcomes.  In 2013, 85% predicted an NDP majority government; in 2015, only 20% predicted a Trudeau majority.  So, a sucker is born every minute.  We’ll see if the Brits are better bettors.

Professor John Curtice reiterates today that the polls can’t be trusted and it’s basically a crapshoot.  The public pollsters notoriously got it wrong in May 2015 and it was Curtice who conducted the election day exit poll that predicted the majority no one expected.  We might just have to wait until the votes are counted!

———-

John Curtice (@whatUKthinks), the polling expert who shocked the UK when he predicted a Conservative majority one minute after the polls closed in the 2015 General Election, says Brexit is too close to call.

The markets and the bettors are predicting a victory for Remain.  Political betting analyst Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) has provided data that shows gamblers moved toward Leave about a week ago, but there was a sharp upturn for Remain after the Jo Cox murder.

Figure 1: Remain is a better bet for 75% of UK bettors.

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What are the markets doing?  British Sterling surged over the past few days, pricing in a Remain outcome.

Figure 2:  GBP climbs in final week

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And finally, what are the polls saying?

Figure 3: Compilation of Brexit polls (@MSmithsonPB)

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There has been a slight advantage for Remain via Telephone surveys and a slight advantage for Leave via Online surveys. While the markets and the bettors have turned toward the Remain camp as the likely outcome, those responding to polls are still very divided.

YouGov’s detailed tables reveal some of the underlying divisions in British society concerning Brexit.

The numbers shown in Figure 3 above are Decided support, however, as YouGov reminds us, there are still undecided voters (9%) and those who say they won’t vote (4%).  On decided vote, YouGov has it at 44 Remain, 43 Leave.

According to YouGov, here are some of the dividing lines:

Remain voters

  • Labour (64%) and LibDem (59%) voters
  • 18-24s (64%) and 25-49s (45%)
  • London (50%) and Scotland (56%)
  • Upper/Middle class – ABC1 voters (53%)

Leave voters

  • Conservative (55%) and UKIP (95%) voters
  • 50-64s (49%) and 65+ (58%)
  • Rest of South (45%); Midland-Wales (51%); North (47%)
  • Skilled working class/ working class/non-working -C2DE voters (52%)

When asked who is most certain to vote, Remain was at 79% and Leave at 84%.

On the dividing lines, there is a fundamental generational difference.  The range between young and old is stark.  The Euro debate, and underlying views on immigration, shape partisan leanings as evidenced in the Party ID splits. Class is also significant.  Then in Scotland, attitudes are tied somewhat to Scottish identity – leave Britain, but stay in EU.

But who will vote?

One would expect a high turnout.  YouGov indicates a tilt toward Leave voters.  Young people are expressing a strong preference for Remain but election turnout studies consistently show they vote at a lower rate.  Will they close the gap, like they did in Canada’s federal election, in the Brexit vote?  Will lower income voters vote at the same rate as higher income voters?  How will the UK’s sizeable immigrant communities vote and will they turnout to vote?  We don’t know this from the YouGov poll, possibly because it’s online which is typically less representative of people who don’t speak or read English well.  Telephone surveys are better in including those populations which may explain a slight leaning to Remain.

Going back to John Curtice, he is the most credible voice in the UK on polling and he believes it’s too close to call.   Curtice says the result could split the difference between the aggregate of phone polls which have Remain at 51% and the aggregate of online polls that have Leave at 51%.  A cliffhanger like the Quebec referendum of 1995.

This process ends in a vote and an outcome, but this discussion of the cold, hard numbers comes just days after a shocking murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.  This is no ordinary vote.  The referendum campaign has exposed the fault lines of UK society.  The stakes are extraordinarily high, especially in the context of a campaign that appears to be a photo-finish.

I’ll bet on Remain, based on voters pulling back due to perceived risk, like they did in Quebec in 1995 and in the recent Scottish referendum.  We’ll see if the gamblers and traders got it right.

 

 

 

 

Brexit the latest chapter in year of protest

“No10 panics as Leave surges”, shouts today’s Daily Telegraph.  “Massive swing to Brexit“, screams another.

With only 11 days until the Brexit campaign reaches its conclusion, momentum appears to be swinging at a very inopportune time for the Remain campaign.  A new poll shows a 55-45 gap in favour of Leave (adjusted for voter turnout, it’s 53-47).  UK voters appear open to following a narrative that has developed over the past year on both sides of the Atlantic – defying the establishment.

Brexit

The papers and TV news are filled with Remain campaigners issuing dire warnings about the implications of leaving the EU.  Former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major said peace in Northern Ireland was at stake.  BBC News discussed an open letter expressing concern for science funding.  Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting job sites to underscore the threat to employment.  Former Labour leader Ed Miliband exhorted Labour supporters to get behind Remain.

It’s a robust campaign.  The Remain campaign is backed by the leadership of the four major political parties – governing Conservatives, Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, and the Lib Dems.

Significant voices in the Conservatives and Labour are advocating for Leave, including former Mayor of London Boris Johnson, cabinet ministers, and Labour MPs, not to mention UKIP, which garnered 13% of the popular vote in last year’s general election and wholeheartedly embraces a Brexit.   Other than UKIP, the Leave campaigners are bucking against their own parties, and while there is an aroma of opportunism, there are also points given for authenticity.

There are some interesting divides at play. There is an elite/populism divide.  The insiders favour Remain while the outsiders look to Leave.  The pro Euro faction of Labour obviously favours Remain but a significant bloc of Labour voters are going the other way.  Labour was particularly vulnerable to UKIP in last year’s election as working-class white voters outside London looked for a new vehicle for protest.  There is a generational divide.  Polls claim that young people are strongly in favour of Remain while plus 55 year old voters favour Leave.

Some constituencies are not bearing as much fruit for Remain as previously thought. Columnist Stephen Bush writes that hoped-for support from liberals and multicultural communities for Remain is less than certain:

The [Labour] Party always knew that it had a problem with persuading white voters in its small-town heartlands to back staying in the European Union.  It now appears that they have a problem persuading middle-class liberals in big cities to turn out to vote, and that the party’s large ethnic minority vote is more hostile to the European project than either the Labour leadership or the Remain campaign ever expected.

We’ve seen this movie before in Canada when a cross-partisan alliance (of elites) fails to mobilize their parties’ followers.  The national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord in 1992 is a shining example where dire warning were made about the future of Canada if there was a No vote.  The outcome was actually “Hell, No”.  Canada survived.

Last year’s transit referendum in Metro Vancouver was another similar example.  Everyone supported Yes except the people.

The 1995 Quebec referendum and 2014 Scottish referendum offer more insights.  Dire warnings were made, and heeded, by voters.  There were moments in those campaigns where the Yes campaigns looked like they would succeed.  In Quebec, the ultimate margin was razor thin.  A key difference was that these campaigns advocated for independence.  The EU referendum is the reverse – “yes” means status quo.  Voting “no” means change.  To mobilize grumpy protest voters, it is arguably easier to coax a “no” than a “yes”.

In all cases, emotion is key.  Bombarding voters with facts and figures from self-interested elites is not the path to success when contrasted with fears over migrants or anger over EU spending.

In the Quebec example, while there were many factors at play, a late-campaign emotional outpouring from Canadians provided much needed momentum.  The federalist forces had their backs against the wall and they rallied, literally, in an historic and emotional show of force.

Can the Remain campaign muster a cogent emotional argument in the next 11 days?  In the past year, the success of Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders provides striking examples of the resolve of voters outside the establishment to go their own way and absolutely tune out traditional voices.  Remain will need to change up their playbook to reach voters that are turned off as much by the messengers as they are by the message.

Over pints at a pub here in the UK, I talked with a collection of university students.  They are incredulous that the UK could vote to Leave.  Their modern outlook sees the opportunities that the EU brings.  The Remain campaign will need to draw on generational differences and mobilize this group of voters that has been typically less likely to vote.

Will the UK vote to Brexit? Most here think not but the next week will be critical in swinging the momentum either way.  As has been said many times, campaigns matter.