The campaign to keep Britain in the EU was officially launched this morning at a chilly Truman Gallery in Brick Lane. Former M&S Executive Chairman Stuart Rose gave a polished overview of the campaign, warning that voting to leave Europe was not patriotic and that while Britain could survive outside the EU it would not be able to thrive.
A good discussion then followed with a politician-free panel including Apprentice star Karren Brady, the BBC’s former economics editor, Stephanie Flanders and, Richard Reed, founder of smoothie giant, Innocent.
And then, unexpectedly, it ended. The predominantly metropolitan elite in the audience didn’t realise proceedings had come to a close until our host, TV personality June Sarpong, invited the board onto the stage for a photo-shoot. Most people seemed to expect some kind of a Q&A, but it wasn’t to be.
Despite the media buzz over the weekend it was a strangely muted affair. Part of the reason may be that, as the resultant coverage testified, no one message really stood out.
One of the biggest challenges faced by both the “In” and “Out” camps is in crafting a positive narrative to back their position rather than relying on scare tactics. No doubt lessons have been learnt from the Scottish independence referendum, when the Better Together campaign was branded “project fear” by opponents.
But while few would welcome positively Europhile rhetoric, in its efforts to prevent voters edging towards a Brexit, the “In” campaign needs to communicate a punchier message for staying inside a reformed EU.