Lee Hsien Loong; PAP

Brexit may be a mess in the UK at the moment, but it was one of the most successful political campaigns in modern democracy. Singaporeans who are against the ruling party PAP rule could draw practical lessons from the Brexit supporters who won the referendum.

1) PAP supporters is our key audience
Supporters of UK leaving the European Union were not from only the opposition supporters, there were substantial supporters of the then-incumbent party calling for Brexit. For Singapore Opposition to make progress in a constituency election, it is hence vital that PAP supporters be given a compelling reason to vote for them. Precious campaigning resources and time should be directed at PAP supporters, instead of preaching to the converted. In the same manner, it would be suicidal to make speeches that alienate the PAP supporters. The PAP supporters are the Opposition’s target audience.

2) Taking the grassroots and “ordinary man” position
Brexit, even though it was primarily advocated by the opposition party UKIP, cleverly masked its opposition presences and took the grassroots position. Every Singaporean opposition politician should also accept the reality that his “opposition” stance is a handicap in getting support. Instead of working too hard to please everyone with political manifestos, a politician should pick a single issue and present himself as an “ordinary man”, by making “ordinary man’s” complaint instead of pretending to be a subject matter expert. There is no need for clever speeches, all you have to do is to echo ground sentiments. More importantly, one should contrast himself with the elitist image the ruling party PAP candidates branded themselves. Simplify the discussion: CPF is causing poverty and hardship. Reposition the voting intent: you are not voting against the PAP, you are voting for yourself/better future/your children/better economy/better finances.

3) Attack, attack and attack
Even today, if you ask what Brexit was all about, everyone will say that England is leaving Europe because there is no benefit. This context has been deeply entrenched no thanks to very successful and consistent attacks from the Brexit supporters. The anti-Brexit camp was caught offguard, and all they could do is to deny the allegations. The lesson for Singapore opposition is that they put the ruling party on the defensive, by attacking, attacking and attacking. An attacker picks the location, time of the day and issue he finds advantageous, while the defender can only accept these terms. Fortunately this election, we have aplenty of bullets. Pick one and campaign hard. My best bet is GST increase or HDB lease. See the campaign on Brexit’s 350 million pounds campaign below: short, simple and highly effective.

Brexit bus; BBC

Defence is hard work, conversely, an opposition politician should avoid being put on defence. If you have been attacked, evade the attack by dropping a humorous and witty line. Then go back to attacking.

4) Discrediting the Prime Minister by lending his weight
Lee Hsien Loong is the central figure in PAP, and there is no better way to discredit the entire party by taking out the Prime Minister’s reputation. The primary purpose to make sure that the people stop listening to Lee Hsien Loong, and the way to do it is to use his words against him. It is like Judo, where you reposition yourself to pivot the opponent’s weight against himself. In politics, we quote them and use their words against them.

Make Lee Hsien Loong untrustworthy by quoting him and drawing inference from his words. It is also a part of the bait-and-trap combo, where you draw a response from him saying “I did not say that”, or “this is fake news”, or “this is defamation”. Put him up on the defensive by quoting his past speeches and latest ministerial statements.