The British Election Study shows how business can contribute to the Brexit debate

The least surprising insight from the British Election Study (BES) was that one in three people mentioned Brexit as the most important issue facing the country at the general election.

The British Election Study into June's results has much to teach us, writes Michelle Di Leo
The British Election Study into June's results has much to teach us, writes Michelle Di Leo

Even if it weren’t for Theresa May’s overt statement on the need for an election to secure her Brexit negotiating mandate, the wall-to-wall coverage meant it was the single most-talked-about issue.

Voters’ issue agenda is often affected to a greater or lesser degree by media coverage (including on social media platforms).

The BES insight that really grabbed the attention of political nerds showed how right-leaning Remain voters lent their votes to Labour in greater numbers than left-leaning Leave voters lent theirs to the Tories.

This is the voter migration that robbed Mrs May of her majority. For political nerds who also happen to be public affairs professionals, digging deeper to understand what this means, this is the election where the terminology of ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ was consigned to the past.

The conversation had already moved on to what kind of Brexit we should be seeking to achieve.

The task now is to ensure that organisations and businesses contribute to the debate about the parameters of Brexit, the transition and what needs to be in place in the post-Brexit world so that this runs with the grain of what voters expect from government.

While Brexit was the number one issue facing the country at the election, immigration, terrorism and the NHS were also highly ranked.

How can issues that are fundamentally business critical be approached and framed in a way that makes it possible for politicians of either of the main parties to sell them to voters?

YouGov data, also published last week, showed that a majority of those over 65 thought job losses were a price worth paying for Brexit.

While the focus has been on the increase in younger voters turning out, politicians remain highly sensitive to the views of older voters.

Conveying the hard messages about the negative impact of Brexit will only get you so far.

Too strong and this tips you into ‘talking Britain down’ and pits you against the herculean task voters have demanded the Government deliver.

There’s only so much doom and gloom people can take before they switch off.

What should we take from data and insight which seem to point in opposite directions?

The recent BMW announcement on future assembly of the electric mini in the UK shows one way.

Give voters and the Government an indication of what the future could look like if Britain secures a workable deal with the EU.

This approach has multiple positives to recommend it: It incentivises the Government to reach a deal that will deliver more announcements like that one. It positions BMW as the good guys, putting metaphorical money where their mouth is.

And it looks like an investment in Britain (even though in monetary terms nothing has actually been invested at this stage) at a time when confidence is everything.

Michelle Di Leo is partner at iNHouse Communications


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