Sound Off For Justice

The Law Society has today launched the UK’s first ever ‘voicemail protest’ for Sound Off For Justice (a campaign against the proposed government cuts to legal aid).

Members of the public are encouraged to voice their discontent with the government’s proposed cuts by leaving a rant on Ken Clarke’s voicemail.

This is how it works:

1. Go to the Sound Off for Justice website and fill in your mobile number.

2.  ‘Ken Clarke’s’ (voiced by Alistair McGowan) voicemail calls your mobile.

3.  You wait for the bleep and then leave your irrate message.

It’s a nice, modern take on the usual ‘fill in this leaflet and post it to your MP’.  And, the fact that the web/mobile technology does most of the leg work for would-be advocates is smart  i.e. no need to dig out the old microphone / webcam.

The issue with such campaigns, as anyone who’s ever worked in an MP’s office will tell you, is that MPs read (or in this case listen to) the first couple and then ignore the rest.

The ‘audio’ nature of the campaign means that it is unlikely to go viral, as listening to lots of people mouthing off just isn’t that exciting or stimulating.

Nevertheless, for what it is, it’s very nicely put together.

Review: The Political Marketing Game

The Political Marketing Game by Jennifer Lees-Marshment is about as thorough an analysis of a discipline, regarded as much an art as it is a science, that one could ever hope for.

The central thesis is that political marketing isn’t just about slogans and posters in the lead up to an election, but is instead an approach that should permeate every aspect of a political organisation.

It’s worth noting that Jennifer Lees-Marshment is a career academic and if you’re looking for a quick insight into how political parties go about trying to get our votes, brought to life by light anecdote, this isn’t the book for you.

Lees-Marshment combines 100 interviews (over 5 years of research, across 5 western liberal democracies) of heavy weight political marketing practitioners with her keen understanding of the wealth of existing academic literature on the subject.

Undoubtedly, the highlights of the book are the musings of communication directors, political representatives, pollsters and strategists including (amongst many others) Alastair Campbell, Iain Duncan Smith and Philip Gould, on their various electoral battles.  Indeed, one wonders if the transcripts of the interviews would be worth publishing in their own right.

Jennifer Lees-Marshment breaks down what it takes to successfully market a modern political party and / or candidate into its component parts and her findings are as relevant to a candidate fighting a local council seat as they are to a team of people who covet the highest of office.

She sets out the relatively simple principles behind what it takes to win the Political Marketing Game: effectively communicate a clear, motivating brand proposition that is credible and differentiates you from the competition.   Sounds simple.  But case study, after case study reveals just how difficult it is to arrive at, and stick to, a strategy that fulfils on such principles.

The multiple pitfalls include the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ created by the 24 hour news cycle, party disunity, pandering to polling, ignoring polling, being overly negative towards the opposition, disregarding the opposition and many, many more.

The book reaches a slightly unnecessary and unrealistic conclusion by proposing that we are on the brink of entering into a ‘partnership democracy’, whereby political elites and the public reach mutual understanding and respect via a virtuous circle of democratic participation and open decision-making.  However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a hugely informative study on an important field that is changing and developing at an extraordinary rate.

(Originally published in Progress Magazine).

Maggies back in Barnsley

Today is polling day in Barnsley, where the Labour candidate Dan Jarvis is expected to win comfortably.

I picked up on this piece of direct mail on politicalbetting.  As he rightly points out:

“There’s going to come a time when Labour’s going to need a new idea apart from “we are not the nasty Tories” even though that has worked well for them over the decades.

Clearly Labour wants a thumping victory – but surely someone could come up with more up to date rhetoric – “the squeezed middle” perhaps?”

I’ve said this time and again, but likening Thatcher to Cameron is not a strategy for success.  It might make Labour die-hards feel good, but the electorate are not dim to the fact that Thatcher was 20 years ago and Labour have been in government for 13 of them since.

Say No To President Clegg Poster

The NOtoAV campaign have released a poster featuring Nick Clegg – portrayed as Shepard Fairey depicted Obama – as the future President of Britain.

It’s a very powerful poster.  Voters hate the idea of political horse-trading behind closed doors in Westiminster.  Telling people that, under AV, it will be Nick Clegg who decides the outcome of every election and not them, will really irk.

Clegg is undoubtedly unpopular at the moment and proposing him as the leader of the ‘Yes’ camp is a smart move.