In doing just this the people behind Brexit in the UK and the election of Trump in the US have successfully gamed the system, convincing us – the electorate – to give them exactly what they want – power. Yet, this is hardly a coup de monde. Where’s the network of conspirators, the common purpose, and the seeds hidden in the reveal? Big Data is a tool available to everyone who can afford to employ it, and therefore it’s reasonable to imagine the Brexit Leave campaign and Trump’s campaign team used it independently of one another.
This has to cause us some concern if we intend to pursue another independence referendum. The British establishment – Project Fear 2 – will cheat and we now know the weapons it has at its disposal. We have to be prepared for these kinds of dirty tricks and we had better be prepared to use some of our own. Whatever shape the next referendum takes, we know it is not going to be a fair or a clean fight. The gloves will be off from the very start, and we had best start disabusing ourselves of any notions of fair play before it begins.
May doesn’t need to follow the old formula of beat cop politics. She knows that it is already redundant. All she has to do is let the cyber analytics people create the better-than-perfect illusion to just enough of the right category of voters that all is well.