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Inside Out: the UK Press, Brexit and Strategic Populist Ventriloquism
This article examines how and when populist discourses were mobilised within the 2016 UK EU Referendum campaign, by examining the specific temporal conjunctions between the changing strategy of the official ‘Vote Leave’ campaign, British National newspaper reporting of the Referendum and shifts in public opinion. Our analysis shows that Vote Leave only started to utilise anti-elitist and exclusionary populist rhetoric at the mid-point of the campaign, in response to constricting political opportunities, but by so doing transformed the dynamic of the Referendum. We term this an example of ‘strategic populist ventriloquism’, where elite politicians appropriate the language of insurgency for political advantage and argue that current conceptual frameworks on media and populism need to be broadened to accommodate these occasions.