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Baston and Ritchie offer ‘an indictment of a poorly run campaign, fought at the wrong time and on the wrong issues’. It is far from clear that any campaign could have succeeded under the conditions facing the Yes campaign in the 2011 AV electoral reform referendum. However, they are right to suggest that a combination of a deeply flawed strategy and unforced tactical errors surely compounded the scale of the defeat.
The mistakes were legion. Perhaps the nadir was when the Yes campaign’s advertising agency (the cost of whose services ran well into six figures) suggested touring the country with a gigantic ‘pin-striped arse’ which voters would be given a chance to kick. But this lunacy was just a symptom of a wider malaise.
Senior strategists failed to recognise that the target demographic was specifically those most concerned about their local representatives, often people with strong existing political allegiances. Instead, the Yes campaign (whose core activists would inevitably have been drawn mainly from this same group, if they weren’t too busy campaigning for their own party’s candidates) tried to project itself as the voice of people alienated from precisely these structures. Its messages were designed to appeal to those most cynical about politicians, and hence likely to be most cynical about the prospects of political reform.
The resulting impression was not an authentic ‘people’s campaign’, but rather the disingenuous creation of a left‑liberal bubble, obsessed with celebrity endorsements from people like Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley. Its literature was bereft of content, making claims that were excessive and lacked credibility, and alienated many potentially supportive MPs – precisely those whose support would influence people turning out to vote. In short, an object lesson in how not to run a referendum campaign.
Corbyn just won a prize for peace activism - so why is the Labour Party still committed to renewing trident? Lily Sheehan investigates.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny