Remainers to Campaigners – Workshop Report

Workshop photo

On Saturday 21st Oct, SSTIE, sponsored by WKEM, ran an all day Remainers to Campaigners workshop at Sevenoaks Community Center  which attracted 96 delegates from across the South East.

The event, which was described as “highly inspiring” by many of the participants, had a highly ambitious agenda, covering all aspects of remain campaigning from practical issues such as setting up a local groups and establishing communication channels, to discussions over the importance of remaining in the EU, and the political and psychological barriers that need to be overcome.

The Remainers’ Toolbox

The first session, chaired by Peter Kinsler from SSTIE, consisted of a series of short presentations.

For the first of these by Jonathan Harris from the East Kent European Movement discussed his experience of using the twitter platform as a tool for promoting pro-EU ideas, looking at lessons learnt on what works and what doesn’t, how to develop an audience and deal with trolls. The EKEM twitter account was set up a year before the referendum, and has attracted an audience of 2260 followers since.

This was followed by Jacqui Taylor from St Albans for Europe, who spoke on their experience of using the nationbuilder software. Nationbuilder is a database first used by the Republican Party in the US Elections. Among others, it offers a positive opt-in where people can sign up and join, where petitions can be mounted and events publicised. This includes useful tools which allow people to sign up for leaflet deliveries, or for the market stall rota on European Movement Action Days.

Tim Verboven

Tim Verboven from the European Movement introduced the concept of the new EM pop up groups, which are now being rolled out nationwide, and Dr Gareth Steel from UKPEN, gave a presentation on the Pro-European Network which is available for download as a pdf. (>>> Gareth Steel – UKPEN: A National Backbone)

Getting People to Listen

Heather Styles

Heather Styles and Tony Clayton from SSTIE both made presentations on bringing emotional arguments back into the debate.

Tony Clayton

While Heather focused on subtle pro-EU messaging using arts and crafts as an example, Tony pitched for personal passion combined with the power of a good narrative. His suggestion for people to write postcards with the most important reason to them for staying in the EU, was inspired by David Wilkinson’s film “Postcards from the 48%“(>>> Tony Clayton – Postcards for Europe – click to download pdf).


The final speaker of the first session was Dirk Hazell, the leader of the UK EPP, who spoke on the importance of the EU from a centre-right perspective and explained how the extremist ideology of Brexit really is incompatible with traditional conservative ideas.

Contrary to the myth that conservatives only value the economic benefits of EU membership, he demonstrated that previous leaders of the Conservative party from Churchill to Thatcher also valued the political aspects of the union, and claimed that none of them “would have been irresponsible enough to endanger the security, stability and good relations of the country that decades of successive conservative governments had established”.

Hazell called for Ministers to put the long term interest of the country before the short-term interests of the party – and stop Brexit. The full text of his speech is available in full on the UK EPP’s website.

The Challenges We Face

Will Hutton (picture by Graham Simpson)

The keynote speech by Will Hutton, political economist, writer and journalist was one the highlights of the day.

Hutton gave a passionate and informative speech about the need for the UK to continue as a full member of the EU, making a strong case for the importance of winning the cultural arguments as well as economic arguments to stop Brexit.

Arguing that the EU stands for values that were developed in our shared heritage of the European Enlightenment, characterised by democracy, the rule of law, evidence-based science, and tolerance and mutual respect, he sees Brexit not just as an attack on the EU, but as an attack on Enlightenment institutions in general.

“We want to be part of this extraordinary Enlightenment Project, this noble effort by fellow Europeans to come together and create a place where those values live, where we don’t fight, where we don’t competitively devalue, and where we don’t competitively have tariffs against each other, where we allow our companies and our young men and women to sell their products to each other and grow rich thereby. That’s why there is a Single Market, that’s why there’s a customs union, that’s why there’s a European Court to adjudicate disputes. It’s not there for the pure economics of it, it’s there because it does serve a noble cause. And I want to be part of it. I don’t want to leave it. I don’t want to be part of a so-called Soft Brexit, which anyway is an impossibility. I want to remain a proud member of the European Union and co-create my country and my continent’s future, and I hope you do too!”

Hutton also called for the use of mockery and satire, which are so culturally British, to discredit those who promote a Brexit at all costs, and cautioned against attacking the BBC. “We have to defend the BBC even while acknowledging its imperfections because it too is an Enlightenment institution. Like the National Health Service is an Enlightenment institution. That’s why we have to defend the rule of law, which is why the Daily Mail’s infamous “Enemies of the People” headline about the judges was an anti-enlightenment headline.”

Dirk Hazell, Antony Hook, Will Hutton and Victoria Dean

The speech was followed by a Panel Discussion, chaired by Victoria Dean, Portland Communications, featuring Will Hutton, Dirk Hazell and Antony Hook (KCC LibDem).

Notable points from this included Antony Hook’s sober observation of the challenge ahead – “in my day job I work in fraud, and I can tell you persuading people who were lied to that they have been is very difficult, a lot of people don’t want to accept it.”

Also noteworthy was Hazell’s agreement with Hutton that “We have got to make the connection in the next few months, that if you want to reverse that there is one, and only one route, that is to stop Brexit. It’s exactly what Will was saying. These people on the Tory right that promised more for the NHS mean exactly the opposite.”

The Reality of Brexit

Prof Alan Mayhew

The economics of Brexit were examined in two talks after lunch, by Prof Alan Mayhew of the University of Sussex, and Dr Alan Bullion of Informa Agribusiness. The session was chaired by Richard Morris, SSTIE, and both presentations are available for download in full:

Dr Alan Bullion

>>> Prof Alan Mayhew – Economics of Brexit

>>> Dr Alan Bullion – Brexit Agribusiness

Parallel Workshops: Organising People to Change Minds

The day concluded with a considerable variety of workshops spread over 10 parallel round table discussions. These gave participants the chance to follow up the topics they were most interested in, and exchange ideas and experiences with other participants. The groups were as follows:

  • Establishing a Remain Group – Patrick Reynolds, SSTIE
  • Communication Within a Group – Jacqui Taylor, St Albans for Europe
  • The European Movement – Tim Verboven, European Movement
  • The Pro-European Network – Gareth Steel, UKPEN
  • Defining and Refining the Message – Tony Clayton, SSTIE
  • Breaking out of the Echo Chamber – Patrick Lohlein, Stop Brexit Limited
  • Campaigning with Facebook and Twitter – Jonathan Harris, EKEM
  • Street Campaigns – Magadalena Williams, Orpington
  • Creative Campaigning – Heather Styles, SSTIE

Concluding Remarks

It was a day packed full of great contributions: speeches, discussions, decorating the hall, clearing up chairs and tables, catering, washing up, registering participants, av tech support, taking minutes, camera work, but principally supporting one another.

The success of the day was of course built on what went before in terms of advertising via social media and through the European Movement together with excellent cooperation among the members. In this connection it is important to note that there are members who supported us in a financial sense and without their contribution we would not be able to able to function as we do.

Photo Credits – Rindy Bakkar (c) 2017 All Rights reserved