We have been tracking Brexit (the British Exit of the EU) for about a year now using our DataSwarm systems, as a side project to test our system’s predictive analytical capabilities (we predicted the Brexit referendum correctly all those years ago, as well as quite a few other “surprise result” elections since – see here for more details).
One of the more interesting features of Brexit has been the fate over the last 9 months or so of the one of the most high profile and flamboyant politicians in the Pro Brexit camp (the Brexiteers), one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, better known as Boris Johnson, or just “Boris”.
To recap for our non-UK readers, Boris was one of the main personalities in the Leave Europe campaign leading up to the Brexit referendum vote, but – after David Cameron (the Prime Minister) resigned the morning after the unexpected result to Leave came in. Boris exited the ensuing tussle for Prime Minister, and Theresa May won the internal Tory Party scrapping and then scraped back in as Prime Minister after winning a General Election (Sidenote – “winning” here is defined as being the one who has to sort out the ensuing Brexit deal with Europe, a Gordian task if ever there was given the indecisive and bitterly contested 52% / 48% referendum vote split in favour of exiting from a 40 year arrangement of extreme complexity with 27 other sovereign nations)
At any rate, post these elections Boris again threw himself into the task of championing the Leave cause, and from the get-go captured a very large amount of the UK mindshare around the Brexit arena. Chart 1 shows his prominent star (or planet, in this diagram) in March this year.
Chart 1 – Zeitgeist Chart for Brexit, March 2018
Chart Notes – The Zeitgeist of Brexit overall is shown -it’s the picture of the total Brexit Mindshare by all the various sub-ideas and opinions at a point in time, arrayed by their Influence over the entire group (X axis) and Relevance (A measure of the current worth – moving, shaking, declining etc – of that particular opinion) on the Y axis.
But a week is a long time in politics, and 9 months is an eternity, and when we look at the same chart of the memetic heavens now, his blob is not nearly as prominent. So where is Boris, he is not immediately visible? A quick search of the system database reveals he is still there, but now deep amongst the Also-Running Nebula (See Chart 2 below). Even the Chancellor (just below, left) is closing in.
Chart 2 – Zeitgeist Chart for Brexit, December 2018
So what has happened? An examination of the opinion and idea sub-streams underlying Brexit overall over the intervening months points to 3 main causes:
- It’s Showtime – the actual process of the negotiation has risen in the overall mindshare as March 29th 2019 approaches EU negotiations are infamous for kicking cans down roads, and this particular Indecision Engine keeps on generating the headlines, generating momentum for the major personalities directly engaged – major ministers, official opponents, EU officials and of course the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
- Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man – and Cometh everyone else to boot. Others have actively started to make more running as That Day draws near Other “Brexiteers” (ardent Leavers) have been grabbing their share of the limelight, and the limelight itself is being tussled over by ardent Remainers (the “Remoaners”) and even Donald Trump (we will do a separate post on him later in this series).
- Run (relatively) Silent, Run Deep – the “Boris Camp” has been changing tack over recent months, and going for Gravitas. The shift has been to adopt a more serious, thoughtful, dare one say Leader-like approach – more use of serious fora and print publications, eschewing the more frothy media (and even a serious haircut). In short, there is a restructuring of the ideas and opinions that surround Brand Boris. However, although old opinions do fade away, they never die – they often mutate and come back to bite at unexpected times – and Boris carries a lot of baggage!
There are still c 3 months before That Day, and the likely attempt to change Prime Minister and at some point before then the new star (or blob) needs to ascend comet-like into the heavens, to burn brightest at just the right time – but timing is everything, and damned difficult (We mentioned the Indecision Engine effect above, and there are also various other stratagems from various parties going on to postpone the Day D-Day as well, which we will cover in later pieces in this series)
So, watch this space. Or better still, come back and watch us watching this space.
A short note on what the DataSwarm system does
The DataSwarm Analytic Engine tracks opinions and ideas from social and other media. It registers their rise and fall in the mindshare of groups of people (this change over at any time what we call the Zeitgeist), whether of large groups like the British population, or smaller subgroups (for example cosmetics users, whisky drinkers, online TV consumers, bitcoin buyers and various other client projects). Just to make it more interesting (i.e. complicated), large groups comprise of smaller groups each with varyingly different idea and opinions sets. We also track how these varying idea sets combine, split, recombine and generate new Zeitgeists in different subgroups. It’s fairly complex analytics, but very powerful – hence our ability to predict elections that surprise all the pollsters, pundits and politicians.