Leave side in Brexit campaign consulted TV hypnotist
Nigel Farage-backed group recruited Paul McKenna to provide advice on videos
Paul McKenna, author of bestselling self-help books including ‘The Power to Influence’ and ‘I Can Make You Happy’ who was asked by the Ukip-backed Leave.EU campaign to examine early edits of promotional videos. Photograph: Getty
The leave campaign enlisted the TV hypnotist Paul McKenna to advise on some of its campaign broadcasts, it has emerged.
The 53-year old author of bestselling self-help books including The Power to Influence, I Can Make You Happy and Hypnotic Gastric Band was asked by the Ukip-backed Leave.EU campaign to examine early edits of promotional videos.
A source at the victorious campaign group told said McKenna “understands the psychology of the mind” and helped Leave.EU “produce social media ads that resonated with people”.
But he added: “We didn’t hypnotise anyone.”
McKenna’s role emerged at the end of a week in which several senior politicians backtracked on persuasive campaign messages from the EU referendum on immigration controls and how much money saved from payments to the EU could be redirected to the NHS.
The hypnotist is said to be a friend of Arron Banks, the Bristol-based multimillionaire insurance businessman who bankrolled the Leave.EU campaign with a £5.6m donation.
McKenna became involved as Leave.EU spent millions of pounds building up its online following partly by using short, dramatic campaign videos posted on its social media accounts. It claimed that it had 1 million followers and supporters on social media by polling day on June 23rd.
“That was the key to winning wavering voters,” said Banks. “It was the massive connection through social media.”
McKenna declined to comment in detail on what help he gave Leave.EU, but his spokesman said: “He is friendly with Arron Banks and Banks showed him a few rough cuts of promotional videos they were considering using in their campaign. [Paul] was quite intrigued by the new style of political campaigning, which he thought was influenced heavily by American politics.”
McKenna has previously described modern hypnotism as “giving you greater communication capabilities with somebody”.
He has said: “More important than power for me is the feeling of euphoria I get if I help somebody make a change, particularly if it is one that has dramatically impaired their life.”
One of the videos McKenna is said to have assessed was a portentous 30-second broadcast on the Leave.EU Facebook page that attracted more than 1.6m views during the campaign.
Over doom-laden music, it began by asking: “Are you concerned about the amount of crime being committed in the UK by foreign criminals?” and “Are you worried about the overcrowding of the UK and the burden on the NHS?” before switching to more upbeat music and asking: “Isn’t it time to take back control?”
McKenna has also said that being absorbed and engrossed in TV broadcasts is equally as hypnotic as a hypnotically induced trance.
This week Banks revealed that a central plank of the leave campaign’s successful strategy emerged from advice taken from the US election strategists Goddard Gunster that “facts don’t work”.
He said: “The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”
Several commentators have said the Republican candidate for the US presidency, Donald Trump, uses hypnotic techniques in his speeches. He uses repetition to make simple ideas stick.
Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader and Leave.EU supporter, did something similar during the EU referendum campaign, repeating again and again the mantra “take back control”.