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This week’s riff: As the United Kingdom begins its seemingly irreversible process of leaving the European Union, many commentators are still trying to understand how the Leave side won? Some of the big arguments – the £350 million budget, immigration and ‘taking back control’ – were obviously important. But equally critical were some of the less obvious actions of the Leave campaign.

I’m currently reading an excellent book called All Out War, by Tim Shipman, which brilliantly and even-handedly sets out all the machinations that led to the Brexit vote. One of Shipman’s stories highlights how Steve Baker, the little-known MP for Wycombe, may have single-handedly changed the course of UK history. As the leader of a group called Conservatives for Britain, Baker saw an ICM poll in 2015 that demonstrated the importance of the referendum question to the final vote.

The poll, which took place a year before the actual referendum, showed that if the question was ‘Should the UK remain a member of the EU?’ 59% said yes. But if the question was, ‘Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?’ only 55% opted to stay in.

In other words, there was 4% in the actual words used in the question. As a result, Baker led a successful campaign to persuade the Electoral Commission to change the government’s proposed ‘yes/no’ question. Given the final 52% vote in favour of leaving, the wording of the question made all the difference.

Business success is not only driven by delivering great products and services that customers love. It is also critical, as Steve Baker understood, to ensure that your ‘playing field’ is set up to give you the biggest chance of success. What steps could you take to make your playing field more advantageous to your business? You never know, even an improvement of 4% could make the difference between failure and glory.

Off The Record: Europe Is Our Playground by Suede

Run with me baby, let’s take a chance

From Heathrow to Hounslow, from the Eastern Bloc to France

Europe is our playground, London is our town

So, run with me baby, now

© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.