Monday, 27 June 2016

Brexit: how Game of Thrones can help explain what just happened

There's a very interesting series of Youtube videos that teach leadership using Game of Thrones examples. Here's his take on the persuasive leader: Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is effective because he finds out what people care about then offers it to them.

The outstanding persuaders of the Brexit campaign were Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Rupert Murdoch. 2 ex-public school very rich men and a billionaire.

The notable persuaded demographic was the "Left Behind." In this video Matthew Goodwin explains who these disenfranchised voters are and why they are drawn to the radical Right. Briefly these are older blue collar working men who lack the skills for a modern career.

The interesting thing about the Leave campaign is how effectively they offered British people, particularly the disenfranchised Left Behind group, what they wanted. The key themes are "ordinary British people" v foreigners, skillfully muddling fear of radical Islamic murderers with immigration from ordinary European citizens; "taking back control" - a key theme in the lives of the economically disadvantaged Left Behind; and support for the NHS - a primary concern for older voters. And a strong appeal to patriotism which saw Leave supporters decking themselves in Union Jacks or England flags, conflating the referendum with the football tournament that's happening just now.

And as for Murdoch along with reasons to vote Leave he gives the British people Game of Thrones and the Premier League - the man knows precisely what people want.

Now let's go back to the Game of Thrones videos. This one is about how the Starks always manage to make people to betray them. They never pay attention to what other people want and take it for granted that other people will respond the way they do.

And this runs so very true for the Remain campaign. They offered dry economic facts and statistics which might be persuasive to a Westminster technocrat but are unappealing to a population that has been bullshitted with statistics for decades. They reminded people how well the economy is doing which might be appealing to politicians driving their Range Rovers around London but has no appeal to Leave voters some of whom have said in interviews that they chose Leave because they don't see how things can possibly get any worse. Remember over half a million Britons use Food Banks.

The people who fronted the Remain side were awful. Cameron and Osborne who are associated with the austerity that has made so many voters feel poorer. Corbyn's heart wasn't in it. Rich businessmen urging people to vote In was disastrous because those people symbolise the winners and losers situation that the Left Behind feel they're in. The Bosses were asking the Workers to support the status quo. Both sides were led by very wealthy men - one side downplayed that and appeared relatable and ordinary; one side smugged about how prosperous economic union was making them and showed the voters graphs.


Chaos is a ladder.

The one positive to come out of this fiasco is that the information politicians need to build us a better country, so that in time we can repair the damage we just did to the rest of the world, has been brought into sharp relief. It's a wake up call for politicians, activists and ordinary citizens who want to influence policy - find out what people want and how to offer it to them. It's actually a good thing that the losers of the last few decades have had a chance to say "Hey! We're not happy.". This MP gets it. Let this be the last time someone talks to their MP then thinks

You know nothing, Jon Snow.


  1. "We fought for a vision of a generous, confident and outward-looking country, committed to playing its part in making the world a better place. But we lost – and it’s crucial that we accept the will of the majority."

    This is the kind of logic that got us into this mess in the first place. It's the fundamental flaw in the democratic process. Just because more people believe X than Y or want A rather than B does not make the bigger number "right" for any value of "right" that isn't defined as "has the biggest number".

    If Caroline Lucas believes the decision to leave was wrong she should fight it, not accept it. If you parse her statement quoted above it means "We fought for a vision of a generous, confident and outward-looking country, committed to playing its part in making the world a better place. But we lost. Consequently we must not only abandon that position but assist in accepting, endorsing and enacting an opposing set of principles"

    That's as much of the reason there's so little faith in the will or power of elected politicians to lead effectively as any shortcoming of the electoral mechanisms. There's no leadership. None.

    Plebicites are a desperately poor way to make decisions. I voted for my MP precisely in order to delegate my responsibilities in matters like these to someone paid and trained to understand them better than I do. I expect MPs to be professionals who spend their working lives learning to make these decisions effectively on my behalf. That is the entire ethos of an elective, representative democracy.

    All these attempts to hand off difficult decisions to "the will of the people", either before or after the fact, are pure abnegation of the responsibilities MPs agreed to undertake on our behalf when they stood for election.

    1. I think you're right about politicians doing their chameleon acts.

      I disagree that democracy is a poor way to take decisions. However democracy does depend on education and we're utterly failing to educate our citizens in the responsibilities of making decisions for a nation.

  2. Interesting analysis. I might be driven to words at some point but I can't drag my eyes away from the news long enough. You might want to check out the "Ultimatum Game" - a psychology test of some sort on wikipedia. It pretty much explains what you/we observed

  3. As an American, I really don't understand the push for further and further integration among Europe. Considering the economic damage the collapse of a piddly little country like Greece did, why would anyone want to be economically linked to them?

    Isn't the story of the 20th century one of an attempt to smash a large number of diverse cultures, peoples, customs, and languages into a small number of countries, and that effort failing miserably? The only driver that pushes countries to unify is threat, and modern society has pretty much eliminated threat from European countries. Who's going to invade Europe these days? Russia? Come on...

    The only possible threat is Islamic immigration, and only because the culture of the immigrants is so dramatically different and shows no interest in changing, watering down, and diluting to match the culture of the host countries. But that very issue was exacerbated by the deepening of Euro ties.

    I don't get the philosophical reason why a strong European Union is necessary. For years, it was sold on the principles of essentially a free trade relationship, but Greece and the economic hardships that threatened to destabilize the whole continent are the natural and inevitable downside of that kind of deep relationship, not an aberration or corruption of the relationship. Now that people see the whole story, why would anyone want to be part of it?

    Then again, I'm an American, and we were specifically founded on the principle that it's better to be independent and suffer a little than be entagled/dependent and propserous.

    1. You're not as independent as you think, Tal. Significant portions of the US economy are heavily dependent on your two neighbours. A great deal of the US's energy needs come from Canada, and before NAFTA, the US car industry came to a screeching halt every time there was an auto workers' strike in Canada because most car parts were made at the Big Three factories in Canada and then shipped south for final assembly. Many border states rely heavily on cross-border trade. There is already plenty of integration of the economies of Canada and the US, especially since the Free Trade Agreement (pre-NAFTA).

      It wasn't the economic integration of the EU that was the issue, it was the currency integration. The UK wisely chose to stay out of the euro and thus was able to keep one of the vital levers of economic control in British hands.

      But if you really want to know one of the big reasons for the evolving integration of the EEC into the EU, the Great War and World War II are pretty big drivers.