Cameron's biggest mistake was relying on Corbyn says Spectator's Isabel Hardman

Deputy Editor of the Spectator, Isabel Hardman challenged the former Prime Minister's judgement in thinking the Labour Party would deliver a Remain vote, when she spoke at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ (CIPR) AGM this week.

Hardman, who is also columnist for the Daily Telegraph, shared her insight with more than sixty CIPR members in the Lecture Hall of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

"I caveat all of what I’m about to say with the comment that by the time we're finished everything might change”. Hardman - named Journalist of the Year at the Political Studies Association in 2015 - has been a front row spectator for the political drama that has unfolded in Westminster in recent weeks.

She began with Brexit and explained why complacency from both Conservatives and Labour MPs was a driving factor behind Britain’s decision to leave the EU. “David Cameron has always been a lucky politician and his attitude was that things would be okay because they always are,” remarked Hardman, pointing to his narrow victory in the Scottish Independence referendum.

Hardman believes the Remain camp’s scaremongering of voters backfired but that there were other, more significant factors behind the Government’s defeat.

"Cameron's biggest mistake was relying on Jeremy Corbyn to encourage Labour voters to vote remain". But Hardman believes Labour’s complacency was equally pivotal in the run up to the vote.

“Labour underestimated the strength of feeling on immigration amongst its supporters” said Hardman, referencing the shock on polling night when traditional Labour areas voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Hardman pointed to what she called a “fundamental disconnect” between Labour MPs and the voters in their heartlands.

She drew comparisons between Labour's recent failure and their performance in the General Election which saw the SNP sweep the board in Scotland. “The look in MPs’ eyes was the same as those who realised last year that seats that had presumed would be Labour forever were about to fall to the SNP.”

Hardman went on to predict further turmoil and greater disconnect between voters and politcians “There will be political fallout when voters realise that Brexit won’t mean significant fall in immigration. When the Labour Party said that 14,000 Polish immigrants would arrive in the country and that many arrived in Southampton that hurt them. A lot. This might do the same for the Conservatives."

Hardman's speech prompted a flood of questions from the floor, leading to further insight into recent political events.

  • On Boris Johnson’s Foreign Secretary role

“He’s been a success everywhere he’s been. Whether as Editor of The Spectator or Mayor of London, he has proven he can rise to a challenge and he has the potential to be very good"

  • On lobby culture

"It has become much less aggressive. I don't get sweared at quite as much. The most effective advisors are the ones who have a chat with you after you’ve written something they don’t like – but in a mature way, just to put their point across for next time."

  • On Andrea Leadsom's lack of media experience

"She was naive and had not had proper media training. But this is not something that can happen overnight. It comes over years of dealing with the press – being savaged on Question Time or by Andrew Neil.

  • On the Ethics EU referendum campaigns

“They were both dishonest campaigns. Early in the year reporters were briefed that there would be a ‘project fear mark 2’ based on security. The idea was that ‘What would Putin want? He’d want you to vote for Brexit.’ The problem was that people don’t really associate the EU with security.”

Information about the CIPR AGM, which preceded Isabel Hardman's speech can be found here.