It’s risky to talk about politics; plain daft to mention Brexit. But, all the pundits, supported by the pollsters and the American President, are crying out for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage to work together, and I don’t agree.
Brexit is expected to dominate December’s General Election. At one end of the political see-saw, the Liberal Democrats vow to revoke Brexit without another referendum, whilst the Brexit party, at the other extreme want an instant no deal exit from the European Union. In the middle are the two main parties. The Conservatives under Boris Johnson have negotiated a deal, whilst the Labour Party have promised to negotiate ‘a sensible deal’, which they would put to a public vote, alongside remaining in the EU.
Boris Johnson is refusing to make an electoral pact with the Brexit Party by agreeing to a much harder Brexit, so why is this a perfectly rational strategy?
I have led multiple pricing projects over the years, and the behavioural economists teach us that people evaluate prices, not in absolute terms, but relative to other options. A majority of people tend to buy something in the middle, so adding a premium product to the line makes the next option down seem more attractive.
So, if people tend to buy something in the middle, Boris Johnson needs to compete against all four parties, including the Brexit Party, to position his deal as the most reasonable. Framing the Liberal Democrats as anti-democratic, the Labour Party as prevaricating, and the Brexit Party as unrealistically purist, changes how Brexit weary voters perceive Boris Johnson’s proposition to “get Brexit done” with a fair deal.
There’s a lot that can still go wrong for Boris Johnson, but it’s potentially in his strategic interest to frame his own deal against the Brexit Party’s extreme demands, especially as the purists in his own party, who consistently voted down Theresa May’s deal, are now vocally supportive. He needs to keep the focus on Brexit, but not necessarily to kill-off or do a deal with the Brexit Party.
I’m not saying that Boris Johnson wouldn’t have had a better strategy had the Brexit Party not decided to stand in every seat across Great Britain, just that he has responded rationally to the hand that he has been dealt by his competitors.
Dominic Cummings, the Special Advisor, who has been credited with devising the strategy said recently “Don’t listen to the pundits. They know the square root of f*** all.” High stakes indeed, but finding out whether he is right over the next few months will be absorbing.