June 24, 2016 Andy Green

The need for a new narrative post Euro Referendum


A seismic change in Britain’s history now needs a seismic change in our future story: the UK is in urgent need of a new narrative. One that explains our past and one that works to rebuild our society and create a stronger platform for a better collective future for the UK.

Otherwise, we face up to creating a future destiny amidst uncertainty, bitterness, rancour and despair.

A narrative is like the string in a pearl necklace, providing the thread for connecting your pearls of your story of the past and of the future, that shape your story of the now.

Not since the darkest hours of 1940 where Winston Churchill stood tall and inspired the British people – and history – of a Britain that its people will fight on its beaches has there been a need for creating a new narrative for our future.

Communicators, PR people, all of us who work in our business have a critical role to play.

At the heart of this is how we in the UK go forward as a society – with a new story.

Ian McMillan, the Barnsley poet Tweeted on the morning after the referendum: ‘This is a roar of bitter anger against austerity and powerlessness. It won’t stop me loving the world and its beautiful songs of hope.’

We need to build on this sense of purpose in life to explain our new reality and future aspirations.

We need to create a new script for the United Kingdom, its people, and its role in the world that:

  • Binds our wounds, connects our people together. For 48% of people who voted ‘Remain’ it’s a future they didn’t choose. We face recrimination and polarisation. For the 52% that voted ‘Leave’ there is a temptation for triumphalism. Our reality is that we need to live and go forward together. Democracy is not just about winner takes all, but respecting the whole of the community.
  • Creates a new sense of direction. We now have a pathway without the map that previously defined our route. We need a vision offering a coherent, constructive, and caring mission.
  • Listens and learns from what happened on June 23rd. A majority sent out a signal, beyond the direct question of staying in or out of the EU, of alienation from the political establishment, a lack of trust in previously trusted sources. We need to learn, grow and move on.

The way ahead is to recognise there are inevitable immediate narratives being used to explain what happen.

“The Leave camp lied and misled the British people.”

“We face economic disaster.”

“White Van Man has decided my future.”

“This is one last ‘F*** you’ from the Baby Boomers’

Inevitably, it will take time to heal the immediate anger felt by the slender minority whose future has been shaped by their fellow citizens.

It is healthy to vent one’s immediate feelings. It is unhealthy however, where your emotions and story of rage dictate your script going forward, masking your ability to make a fresh start, to make the most of our situation and our potential.

In this post-Referendum period we need to create a new ground, beyond those defined by the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ camps, that creates a new sense of shared purpose and common destiny.

We need to build a new narrative, that explains our past, the reason why people acted the way they did, and the story of our future that will shape how we define our story of now.

We need a story narrative not of ‘Tragedy – a ‘Riches-to-Rags’ plot, but of ‘Re-birth’, where it is a plot of how we find the answer, the resource and capability from within us.

This will require open, honest reflection, but crucially listening to and recognizing the narrative patterns that are being used by the different camps of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’- and how we, like it or not, have a reality that we need to move forward from.

Communicators, like Winston Churchill in 1940 now need to stand tall.

Yes, a slim majority of 52% has given its verdict. But it’s a future for the 100% of us we now need to work on. And that will require a new narrative, to paraphrase Churchill, where we need to offer our blood, toil, tears and sweat, but will never surrender to a hopeless future.

Let our new journey of a new truth and reconciliation begin.

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