It was Charlie Munger that won Brexit

Dominic Cummings was the mastermind behind the Vote Leave campaign victory.
I have read this 58 page blog post,  warts and all lessons from  the campaign, 5 times. I learn something every time.
He shows how a small group of dedicated men and women took on the British establishment and beat them.
 I view the Remain side, full of people I knew from my pro-European days, as well-meaning amateurs. This article vindicates this view.
 When I read Cummings piece, I can see how we were beaten before we had even started.
Big lesson 
More importantly, it shows that a professional and detached campaign director can win a campaign, if it is well resourced and does and says what needs to be done to win, rather than what the people behind the campaign want to say and do. It is about responding to what the people want to hear, rather than fringe issues that consume your own constituency.
Charlie Munger’s role
He puts success down to: “It comes from applying what Charlie Munger calls unrecognised simplicities of effective action that one can see implemented by successful people/organisations”.
It is interesting how Cummings was prepared to experiment. He adapted the message to the one that appealed to most people, rather than the message the Vote Leave thought important, and used cutting edge data to back the campaign.
 Victory  Not Inevitable
He debunks the idea the victory was inevitable. He shows that 600,000 people, less than less than 1% of the registered electorate, voting for Remain, would have changed the result.
 His analysis is profoundly honest. He did not write this to make friends and the service of more than a few libel lawyers must have been spent on this.
He views the idea of a classic post facto  “big event must be because by one big factor” story, so beloved of the SW1 set  as appealing but a mistake. His view is that if Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, had stayed out, and Farage had led the  Leave campaign, Remain would have won.
What did Leave  do
He shows how the campaign office “implemented a  125 million leaflets, nearly a billion targeted digital adverts, 12,000 active volunteers, recruited in less than 10 months, and the use of not only traditional polling but a new type of experimental polling. Importantly they used a data science team.”
The really big idea
They ignored the pet issues of the eurosceptics and ignored many “big voices” ideas. He was right and they were wrong. He listened to what resonated to the people. He based that on data. This is not emotional gut feeling, this is based on speaking about what people want to hear.
Problems of the Leave Campaign
 He is honest about the problems of the vote leave campaign, including:
  •  infighting over who appeared on broadcast and strategy
  • the lack of resources
  • the extreme difficulty of finding a governance system that would work
  • four crucial posts held by the wrong people
  • the fundamental structure of how the media works
  • extreme difficulty of getting from people to say on TV what research showed was necessary to win
  • the lack of anything resembling well-organised mass movement.
Eurosceptic Movement a farce, Remain worse
 I enjoyed the statement that “ despite many years to prepare, the Eurosceptic community had built remarkably little to prepare for the battle. On the ground there were many small and ineffective and often more in little groups and essentially notion serious machinery. All this had to be built almost entirely from scratch in an environment in which many of those in charge of the small groups were sure we would lose, less interested in winning man they were in presume preserving our groups identity.” What is painfully clear is that the pro-European campaign was an even bigger shambles.
Remain had everything going for them – Farage is a liability
He lists the many advantages going for the Remain campaign, including money, media and interestingly in his view   “Farage, Aaron Banks” and co.   He notes millions, particularly middle-class, were put off by  attacks on foreigners.
The Approximate Truth
 He states his “view of the approximate truth is this. The closest approximation to the truth that we can get is the leave won because of a combination of:
one, three big, powerful forces with global impact:
1). the immigration crisis,
2)the financial crisis,
and 3) the euro crisis which created conditions in which the referendum would be competitive;
two,  vote leave implemented some unrecognised simplicities – taken from Charlie mongers business thinking – in its operations that focused attention more effectively than the other side, simple and psychologically compelling story, thus taking advantage of those three big forces; and
three,  Cameron’s operating model what constitutes effective political action and had bad judgement about key people  (particularly his chief of staff and director of communications) therefore they made critical errors. Even if one and two had played at the same, I think that if that you have made one of a few critical decisions differently they would have likely won.”
Europe is not a winning brand
Drawing from deep sets of polling and data,  he sees three things about the public mindset:
1. the immigration crisis
2. the 2008 financial crisis; which he describes as “essentially corporate looting”
3. The euro crisis.  His view is “this is important because people joined Europe because it was seen as a success. Today, it is not.”
I think this model is important. The EU has not effectively responded to these concerns. It’s mechanisms and responses are glacial. Fudging is not a model for success and most people see it as a sign of failure – except perhaps by enough heads of state and too many Commissioners.
Their winning messages?
He outlines what worked for them. He notes “our story rested on five simple foundations that came from listening very hard reading you, thought, and said”.
1. Let’s take back control interestingly, this message came back from researching opinion.
 2. The official bill of EU membership is three hundred million per week and lets spend our money on  our priorities like the NHS
 3. Vote leave today take back control of immigration. People don’t like the idea of foreign rapists being allowed to stay in the UK after their sentence.
4.  the euro is a nightmare. – If we stay you will be paying the bills.
5.  Anti-establishment.

REACH ban challenge falls – but closer than many thought

This morning the European Parliament  Environment Committee voted on Julie Girling’s (UK/ECR) challenge against the listing for authorisation of Triton X-100 under REACH.

The vote was closer than many expected: For 23, Against 34, 1 abstention.

It is the closest any challenge has got to date. I recall a challenge against the phase out of lead in crystal by Swarovksi glass many years ago. It came to nothing.

Challenges usually succeed when a cross party group of MEPs from the S&D, Greens, radical left, and Liberals work together (often with the far right). But, to be fair, challenges are very rare, and successful challenges even rarer. We are talking about cases happening at the margins.

The  EPP have a rule not to support challenges to authorisation listings under REACH.

I don’t think there was a roll call vote for today’s vote. If there is I will update this blog.

This case was peculiar. The reason for the challenge was more with a view to influence the Commission for a longer grant for continued permitted use of an otherwise phased out substance. Julie Girling, a respected British Conservative MEP, who serves as the liaison with ECHA supported the challenge. This was not a frontal challenge against a substance being listed.

I will have to wait longer until the Environment Committee, who lead on REACH matters, launch a successful challenge against a REACH authorisation listing. However, as these are implementing acts, the Commission does not have to follow the EP.

Time will tell if the tactic works and the Commission grant a longer period for continued use after the official phase out. To date, the longest so far is 12 years. That can be renewed.

Is there an alternative?

Coming in this stage is a last resort. There must be an alternative? I think there is. I was chatting with one of Europe’s leading experts on chemical regulation. I asked them how a substance, vilified by many NGOs and many politicians, had walked away from microscopic independent scientific review.

The answer was the substance had lots of world-class scientific studies and data, going back decades, that they handed over.

They brought in world-class scientific experts to present the science clearly and answer all and any questions clearly, humbly, and helpfully.

They stuck to the science, did not verve off message and talk about socio-economic impacts, and played the game as it was meant to be, and not how most people do.

After many hundreds of pages later one of the most disliked substances of the 20th century walked away.

Many may find it strange for a political consultant to suggest such a staid and scientific approach. I think you should keep the “dark arts” for the very few times when they are needed. That’s usually when, for exceptional  reasons,things go wrong.

For 99% of the time, I just hope the science is followed, and the rules of the game are followed to the letter. Lobbyists and politicians are not very good at deciding at what science is.

I hope more people go for the dull approach.



What did the EU do in 2016

Every year European commission publishes a journal report on the and the activities of the European Union. On 15 March they published a 2016 edition. Please find more information here. It is well worth reading.

Monthly to Yearly Reports

Many years ago, the commission used to publish a monthly version of the general report. It was a useful journal of record to see what the European Union, and in particular the European commission, were doing. I remember reading them when I was doing my PhD (uncompleted) and  a few years later drafting contributions for the activity report for DG environment. Unfortunately, for reasons I never fully understood, the monthly service was ended




The keywords throughout are investment, jobs, telecommunications, migration, defending  and empowers at home and abroad.

The annual report  is divided into 10 chapters:
chapter 1. A new boost for jobs, growth and investment
chapter 2. A connected digital single market
chapter 3. A resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy
chapter 4. A deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base
Chapter 5. A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union
chapter 6. A reasonable and balanced free trade agreement with the United States.
Chapter 7. An area of justice and fundamental rights based on mutual trust.
Chapter 8. Towards a new policy of migration.
Chapter 9 . A stronger global actor.
Chapter 10 a Union of Democratic change.


This was the first year that the Parliament, Council, and Commission agreed on a joint legislative priorities. They signed a joint declaration on 13th December  “on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017” (see here).

Despite public concerns, unemployment has declined and growth has risen. Today, unemployment is lowest in the EU since 2009 and  the Great Recession.

Energy, Energy, Energy

Chapter 3 is given over to the energy union – see pages 28 to 34. There can be no doubt as to the political direction of travel for the European union. Looking at page 29  it states “  the global transition to clean energy is ongoing and irreversible, and new European union wants not only to adapt, but to lead. It is its global responsibility.”

They see clean energy as historical inevitable. They note clean energy in 2015 attracted global investment of  € 300 billion. They project 900,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. Let’s hope the central planners guess the future right (for once). Energy transitions have all taken a long time.

They want Europe to embrace  “energy efficiency as the cheapest and cleanest is that which is not used at all.” We still need to get around to people turning off their unused appliances in the meantime.

All slow at sea?

Environment and Fisheries have been unified under one Commissioner. Some thought that this would be too much for one man to lead. They need not worry. This Commission is doing so little new on fisheries and the environment field, and in fisheries it is hardly keeping up with implementing the new CFP.

What about industry

With many countries embracing plans to help industry – like Trump and May –  The discussion “ strengthening the EU’s industrial base”  is bare in comparison.

As they state, it  seems to cover 2 specific initiatives.

First, ‘a set of measures announced in April to support the links between national initiatives for the digitization of industry.


Second announcement in June of EU level smart specialisation platform for industrial modernisation. This assists cooperation between regions, clusters of companies, business networks and industrial partners.’

Better Regulation – the greatest achievement?

I think the greatest achievement of this Commission is that it has become serious about making better laws.  There is a lot of work to do, but a huge amount has been done.

Two pages are given over to better regulation – see pages 90 to 91. In relation to the regulatory scrutiny Board, in notes that in 2016, it is reviewed and issued opinions on 60 impact assessment and seven evaluations.

Perhaps the most important thing that this commission has done as the new web presence and feedback mechanisms. Draft delegated in implementing acts were from June 2016 open public feedback for a period of four weeks. By the end of the year 106 draft delegated in implementing acts had been published.
Roadmaps or inception impact assessments for new initiatives, evaluations and legislative proposals have been open for stakeholder comments and contributions since July 2015. By the end of 2016 338 roadmaps and inception impact assessment be published for feedback. During the same period 147  legislative proposals were published for feedback.

There are some gaps. The application of impact assessment for actions on substances – whether under REACH or international conventions – is still variable and problematic.

Much work needs to be done with the Commission Services to remind that all Directorate-Generals  fall under the rules.



There is scant reference to the UK voting to leave the EU. It is like the EU of 28 has been airbrushed to an EU of 27.