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Behind the Brexit headlines: Lloyd Embley

Despite months of campaigning, the result of the European Referendum in favour of Leave still caught most of the nation by surprise, including many of the politicians in power. Below, our editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley, shares his diary from the week leading up to the result and offers some insights into the reporting of the result, its built up and the aftermath.

Saturday, June 18

Today our Sunday team is producing the final editions of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People before the EU referendum on Thursday. A delicate situation has been made all the more difficult by the senseless shooting of Labour MP Jo Cox. Debate over the unpleasant and divisive nature of the referendum campaigning is raging. Jo was passionately pro-European.

Our Sunday titles have already commissioned a Brexit poll by ComRes for this weekend's papers and several of the questions were designed to measure voter attitudes and emotions. The chairman of ComRes, Andrew Hawkins, tells Sunday Political Editor Nigel Nelson that they have picked up a clear change in behaviour in the hours after Jo's murder.

The Sunday Mirror team are aware of the risks of "politicising" Jo's death but the words from Mr Hawkins along with the poll stats mean this is a legitimate story.

As the referendum is only a few days away, decisions also have to be made about the editorial stance of our titles. The Sunday Mirror comes out for Remain - arguing it is the better option for readers' jobs and rights.

The People is less strident in its view – in line with its independent positioning – but still concludes that if readers are still in doubt they shouldn't vote out. A great job by the single editorial team which produces our two Sunday titles. Well done all, especially Mr Nelson.

Tuesday, June 21

As the EU referendum campaign reaches fever pitch, the Daily Mirror makes its call. This has been a really tough decision. We know that many of our readers will vote Leave. And we also know that this is such an emotive issue.

We have tried not to preach to our readers over the past few weeks - unlike some other papers. But fence-sitting on such an important matter isn't an option. The Labour Party, the TUC and the big unions are all in agreement with business leaders and nine out of 10 economists that Remain is the right option for Britain's future.

In fact, only one political party's official position is Leave – UKIP. Much of Fleet Street has been Leave from the outset but we are convinced by the arguments that ordinary people will suffer if we come out.

That's not to say that the Mirror doesn't have major concerns about the EU, particularly on the question of freedom of movement. We are convinced, however, that pushing for change from within is the stronger option.

We urge readers to vote Remain for their futures and for their children and grandchildren. Particularly encouraging has been the levels of traffic and engagement political content is now driving online.

This week has been brilliant for our digital numbers and the politics team, which is fully integrated across print and digital, has been brilliant at feeding the beast.

Thursday, June 23

Polling Day is always a funny one for print - but a different ball game for the website and social media team.

All eyes are on turnout and movement with the bookmakers. In print we have planned four editions: 10.30pm, 12.30pm, 1.30am and 5.30am. The only one with a hope of carrying the result is the last one which won't have a very long print run. With that in mind we choose a message which works whatever the result – Project Reunite.

The referendum campaign has split families, neighbourhoods, generations, colleagues. At times, it has been unspeakably unpleasant (that's you Mr Farage). It's vital that a healing process starts ASAP.
Online, we'll be updating all the results as they come in through the night. Polls close at 10 and soon after Farage comes out and appears to concede.

Strange. Gibraltar is first to announce result - unsurprisingly Remain romps it. But the first result of significance is Sunderland. Wow. A massive win for Leave – way more comfortable than expected. Bookies shift prices but Remain is still odds on. Farage starts to unconcede...

Soon we are updating every few minutes online. Most people in the office are Remain and the mood is starting to shift. Result after result fuels the unease. Will we have a result in time for our final edition. Shortly after 4.30am we have the answer – we're Leaving.

Tomorrow is going to be HUGE – and it's nearly daylight. Some head for a couple of hours sleep while others, including website maestros Ben Rankin and Paul Cockerton, walk through the door at 4.45am to drive our online coverage of this extraordinary event.


Friday, June 24

It wasn't a dream/nightmare (delete as appropriate). We voted to Leave. Back in the office three and half hours after leaving and online traffic is through the roof.
The political and economic repercussions will go on for years but we have to look at today. It's immediately clear the markets and the pound are in for a beating.
The blame game starts too, with Jeremy Corbyn in the firing line. He's accused of being invisible during the campaign and failing to win over voters in Labour heartlands.

He was unquestionably a reluctant Remainer but some here feel that he will actually be happy with the result.

Why?

Polarisation of politics. A big shift right for the Tories and a strengthening of Labour's left credentials. Whatever the reasoning, everyone agrees he offered little to Labour's Remain cause. Senior Labour figures are livid. News from No10. Cameron is to address the nation shortly.

A call for calm and unity perhaps?

Er, no!

With a teary Sam Cam at his side he stares down the barrel and says: Sod this, I've had enough. That utter b*****d Boris can pick up the pieces (well, that's what it sounded like to me!). The austerity Prime Minister has a new legacy...

All the most read stories online are politics. It's great to see. This is the Mirror at its best. We increase the pagination of Saturday's edition and start to work out a plot. Everyone wants tomorrow's paper to be epic. Morning conference is one of the best I've ever known. The team is all over it. We plan to do the first 10 spreads.

It's hard to single out people but the Daily's political team of Jason Beattie, Jack Blanchard, Ben Glaze, Mickey Smith and Dan Bloom along with Kevin Maguire and Paul Routledge have been amazing. So too have Business Editor Graham Hiscott, news editor Tom Carlin, backbench boss Jon Clark and his team and Ben Rankin, Paul Cockerton, Ann Gripper and Jo Kelly from online.

Assistant Editor Mike Small is on holiday this week – but he's sitting at his desk. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else", he says to me. Sums it up really. What a team we have. Thoughts turn to tomorrow's front page. I've done a few in my time but this is a big one.

So many stories, so many angles but it's not every day a Prime Minister quits. I love a picture of Cameron addressing journalists outside No10 with Sam Cam looking on.

We whack it across the whole front and it looks superb. I try a couple of headlines and quite like:
It wasn't supposed to end this way...

Seems to cover Cameron quitting and the Leave result quite well. But maybe it's a bit soft and doesn't quite capture the mood.

Jon Clark nails it: So, what the hell happens now?

It's EXACTLY what the country is thinking. It's the perfect front to a paper of which every single member of staff should be very proud. One of the best issues I've been involved with in 22 years on the Mirror – and that's all down to this amazing group of journalists I'm lucky enough to spend my days with.

This article first appeared in The Drum, 13th July 2016

 

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