Part two of my interview with Business Insider on Brexit:
Stephen Kinnock believes the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union failed because it was too focused on David Cameron and didn’t give enough of a voice to ordinary people.
The Labour MP for Aberavon and pro-Remainer tells Business Insider that a deadly cocktail of anti-EU factors meant the odds were stacked against the Remain campaign right from the beginning.
He told BI: “Part of me is amazed that we actually got 48% when you think about the decades of criticism of the EU in our media, unbalanced and completely biased, the way in which politicians have used the EU as a whipping boy, a great thing to blame when things don’t go their way and when the EU does deliver something positive the national politicians take all the credit for it.
“Then you can combine it with the Eurozone crisis — which of course was of course triggered by a banking crisis — but again the EU ended up reeling from one disaster to another. Then you’ve got the refugee crisis.
“Then you’ve got a prime minister who in my view tried to make the referendum far too much about himself. The campaign should have done more about getting different voices. We should have been hearing from shop stewards and middle managers and we should have humanised the Remain campaign much more.
“When you combine long term structural erosion of the British people’s support of the EU with shorter term mistakes made during the Remain campaign, it’s actually amazing that we got 48%.”
One major criticism that has been levelled at the Remain campaign since the shock Brexit vote was that it focused too heavily on the risks of leaving the EU28-nation bloc, rather than providing an optimistic narrative for why Britain should remain an EU member state. It was dubbed ‘Project Fear’ by dismissive Leave voters.
Kinnock concedes this was a problem, saying: “I think what was really missing was a clear and compelling argument as to why we should stay in the EU rather than focusing on the risks of coming out.
“What was needed was a description of where the world is going and what the role of the EU in that 21st-century picture could be. We should have been more strategic about it.”
He added: “But you’ve got to remember that wages have stagnated in this country since 2007 and the Remain campaign was effectively saying ‘vote for the status quo’ when for a lot of people the status quo is rubbish. That was a major factor as well.”
Jeremy Corbyn, who was re-elected to lead the Labour Party last month, was criticised for not being enthusiastic enough while campaigning for Remain. However, Theresa May’s contribution to the campaign wasn’t much better. Corbyn made 123 media appearances in the eight weeks leading up to June 23, while May made just 29.
“Theresa May is pro-Theresa May,” Kinnock said. “Her behaviour, when you trace it all the way back, is about positioning herself for the top job. Her eyes have been on that prize for a very long time. She’s someone who puts pragmatism and personal ambition way ahead of principle. That’s what motivated her during the campaign.
“I don’t think she has a deeply-held view on Europe either way. She will lick her finger, put it in the wind and see which way it’s going and then base her calculation and what’s best for her and her own career advancement and take the necessary action.”