Vote Leave TV ads: Leave out the Innuendo

by Michael Prest | 02.06.2016

Vote Leave has two new TV ads running.  Both are pernicious and insidious. One is meant to scare the living daylights out of voters over what remaining in the EU would do to the NHS. The other is an attempt to glean information about voters’ intentions disguised as a wacky £50 million football competition.

They are predictably free and easy with the facts.  The wrong claim that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU is shamelessly repeated – now recycled as £50 million a day. It is asserted that Turkey will join the EU – when that is far from certain. The UK is said to be liable to pay for Euro “bailouts”, even though the UK is explicitly excluded from such bailouts.

But the words are not the point – it is the crafty pictures that are, particularly in the NHS ad. That ad is a farrago of innuendo. Unspoken thoughts burrow their way into the consciousness, there to lodge like so many larvae. When they mature into thoughts they simply say: the money we send to Brussels and all those migrants the rest of the EU sends to Britain threaten a national treasure, the NHS.

Sly images convey this deceptively simple message. The NHS ad splits the screen into Inside the EU and Outside the EU halves. The story is about a daughter (presumably) who takes her ill mother (presumably) to A&E.  Successive frames contrast NHS overcrowding and anxiety Inside the EU with speedy and reassuring treatment Outside the EU. In the world of Outside the EU, waiting patients disappear as miraculously as a doctor appears. Paperwork vanishes and the number of nurses doubles. No burly man who looks suspiciously like a healthy migrant ahead of you in the queue in the Outside the EU frame, as there is in the Inside the EU sequence.

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It is nonsense, of course. There will be no pot of gold at the end of the Leave rainbow, to rescue the NHS – or anything else. But innuendo, which by definition exploits fears and prejudices, can be highly effective. Viewers may find both ads confusing.  What is happening on the simultaneous split screens in the NHS ad? What on earth is “Win £50 million with Kevin and Gary” about? Yet almost anyone will pick up the subliminal messages, and viewers even slightly predisposed to the Leave side are likely to be especially receptive.

That’s how ads work. In this case, however, Vote Leave is not selling soap powder. It is selling fear. The ads deliberately, surreptitiously play on fears of the unknown – migrants from foreign countries, the future of the NHS – to deceive millions of people into making a fateful decision they cannot reverse. The ads ignore the towns up and down the country where UK citizens and migrants live happily side by side; they ignore the larger questions of how the NHS is staffed and funded, and why it is under pressure.

Far worse, the ads are aimed squarely at poorer voters, men and women who rely on the NHS and recognise Kevin and Gary as familiar blokes in the pub. Poorer voters can least afford the promise of the pot of gold. But the Vote Leave ads ruthlessly exploit their circumstances to increase a sense of vulnerability. If you don’t vote leave, the NHS ad implies, you will find yourself behind a migrant in the waiting room queue every time. If you don’t vote leave, the football ad implies, millions of Turks will flock to your neighbourhood and undercut your wages. It is no coincidence that the £50 million to be won, against astronomic odds, in Kevin and Gary’s football competition is the same £50 million we allegedly pay the EU every day and would, allegedly, be able to keep for ourselves.

Vote Leave should not be peddling cheap innuendo in these ads. It demeans the debate and it insults the voters.  At least the voters will have a chance to reject it on June 23.


Edited by Geert Linnebank

4 Responses to “Vote Leave TV ads: Leave out the Innuendo”

  • Please read and spread comment from the LSE about the post brexit economic model from Minford et al with very accurate dismantling of the position of those economists for brexit. Article titled: “The ‘Britain Alone’ scenario: how Economists for Brexit defy the laws of gravity”. It is really an eye opener on the damage on the economy Uk is going to inflict itself in case of brexit

  • Here’s a challenge. I will counter every ‘fact’ supporting Remain posted in reply to this message, with a real fact supporting Leave.

    Go on good readers, give it a go.

    • Have you Prof . Minards report? It is easily accessed on line. Particularly worth reading Page 5. Try posting it to the Express , Mail or Telegraph who have featured him as a Brexit economist. Then you can let us know how Brexit is concerned for those in employed in Manufacturing or happen to be poor.

  • @Stephen Tye

    1) Fact : the UK doesn’t send £350 millions a week in contribution to the EU
    the figure is closer to £250 millions
    and once money sent back as subsidies and investment is deducted the net amount is closer to £120 millions a week

    therefore most of the Leave’s spending promises are unfunded

    2) Fact : Turkey will not join the EU in 2020
    to do so, would mean approving the whole “Acquis Communautaire” in the next 3-4 years
    out of the 50+ chapters to be reviewed, less than 10 have been found satisfactory since Turkey announced its intention to join 30 years ago
    if it ever is able to join ( say in 50 or 100 years), every single member states has a veto right on this decision.
    which means that the legitimate government of Her Majesty would have agreed to it

    3) Fact : the UK does have control over its border
    custom officers and border guards are entitled to refuse access to the UK to any foreign nationals, be they from the EU or not.
    why they may choose not to do, would have more to do with the guidelines and funding given to them by Her Majesty ministries.

    one very simple reason (among many), is that there are no criminal grounds to refuse access to most tourists whose money will sponsor the economy.
    or to refuse the opportunity for migrants to seek employment to fill job vacancies that will lead to more general prosperity and tax returns

    that tabloids and demagogues prefer to frame the issue as one of “brussels ordered us to”, rather than ” we choose to because we find it in our interest” doesn’t make it more true

    start working on this 😉

    best regards,