Updated: Aug 22, 2022
"My ambition will be to guide our country to the sunlit uplands – a future for our children and grandchildren of aspiration, tolerance and hope." So said pro-Brexit politician Andrea Leadsom in her Conservative party leadership bid immediately following the 2016 referendum.
"I am here to tell you that this country will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily.” Added former Foreign Secretary Boris a year later.
“The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.” Assured Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox around the same time.
And now, with just weeks to go before we leave the EU, potentially with no deal? Now Brexiteers have been reduced to trotting out that old British trope known as the 'Blitz Spirit'.
For my foreign chums, the Blitz Spirit is the name for the unique sense of community engendered amongst victims of the relentless German bombing of British towns and cities in WWII as they hunkered down in bomb shelters and tube stations during the raids of 1940/41. As a nation we have always taken pride in the coming-together of our people during times of trouble; how we set aside our differences and reach out to help each other through the worst. Politicians have frequently invoked the Blitz Spirit during times of hardship, including the terrorist attacks of 7/7. Now, as the country faces potential food and medicine shortages, not to mention “riots in the streets” they are invoking it again which, from a communications perspective, is a very bad idea. Here are three reasons why...
The Blitz Spirit, of which politicians are so proud, is something only known to those that were there or perhaps one, maximum two generations removed. For anyone born after 1985 a.k.a. millennials it’s essentially meaningless so does absolutely nothing to assuage the misgivings of the largest demographic group to vote remain. If Brexiteers really want to unite the country behind the referendum result they need to pick a point of reference that appeals beyond their base lest they cause even greater polarisation of the generations.
The Blitz Spirit isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. As the BBC reports, "Despite the Blitz spirit of World War Two, crime rose from 303,771 offences in 1939 to 478,000 in 1945”; looting was rife as was murder. Murderers used the bombing raids as cover, burying bodies in the rubble hoping for them to be mistaken as victims of war. And let’s not forget rationing, which led to a booming black market and countless cases of fraud as people used the ration books of dead relatives to collect more than their fair share. On reflection, perhaps we weren’t so “all in it together”.
Thirdly, and most significantly, one cannot invoke the Blitz Spirit without also invoking the war thereby undermining all of the Brexiteers' promises of a better future for Britain. They are now reversing ferret with terminal velocity and implying that a post-Brexit Britain will essentially be a war zone with all the violence, fear and deprivation that entails. So that’s something to look forward to.
Brexiteers need to get their story straight; are they taking us into the sunlit uplands or the shadowy abyss? Are we to look forward to a prosperous new future or backwards at a misremembered past? Are we to become more global or more isolated? Never has there been a greater need for clear communication and visionary content to assure and inspire all of Britain, yet I see nothing but bickering and back-pedalling.
My recommendation to keep both Brexiteers and Remainers, if not happy then at least civil? Focus on the global picture which, thanks to scale of our economy, puts us back into the upper echelons of a global world order (pleasing imperialist-leaning Brexiteers), and ensures a connected future for millennial nomads who see themselves as part of a global village.
What message do you think Brexiteers should be delivering? (Let’s try to keep it civil folks, this is not a debate about Brexit, that’s already happened, it’s about how politicians and commentators should be communicating their vision to the public.) I’d be interested in your thoughts and, of course, if you’re looking for a better story to tell your audience then check out my content strategy & storytelling solutions at www.mooreslore.com.