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Posts tagged ‘Politics’


Two-way for Canadian Talk Radio CFRA after UK votes to leave the EU

After the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU – I gave an interview to Evan Solomon on his Ottawa Now politics show on CFRA News Talk Radio. I covered the political fall out of the decision in the UK and across the rest of Europe.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe Audio Diary: Day two, August 11 2013

Here’s day 2 – a day of five shows and complete contrasts. Some brilliant theatre, some engaging comedy and a good old fashioned stinker. Please leave comments, recommendations and reactions below.


Social Media and Political Campaigning

Hazel Blears’ Observer piece this morning makes some strong arguments about the need for the labour party to actually engage with voters. A lot of what she says is eerily similar to John Major’s (undeniable effective) soapbox strategy in the 1992 general election.

I think she picks up on the tendency for organisations (I include private companies in this as well) to see social networking as ‘the solution’. She is clearly not impressed by Gordon Brown’s video message, coining the fantastic phrase “YouTube if you want to”.

YouTube is not ‘the answer’. Social media is the means not the end.

But she misses the point – Blears calls for politicians to spend more time actually engaging with people, hearing their anger. Used correctly, social media offers a fantastic way to do this. Gordon Brown’s problem is not that he’s using social media, it’s that he’s trying to use it in ‘old media’ ways.

That YouTube video is simply a broadcast, something politicians have been doing ever since they invented the radio. Comments have been turn off – it’s about as disengaged as you can possibly get.

A lot of politicians are getting it – where Twitter, Facebook and blogging work well it’s where the publisher engages with other users. People like Tom Harris get this. He interacts with his commentators and gets into the debate on twitter. He isn’t looking at the web as another tool to broadcast but as yet another way to meet with, listen to and engage with voters.

I think the biggest sign that he gets it is that he knows it’s just one of the many methods he needs to be using. He held a town hall meeting in his constituency to listen to his electorate in person.

Everyone looks at Obama’s election victory and get excited about social media – but it wasn’t the web wot won it for Obama – it was engaging with the electorate. Online was the right tool for certain circumstances, but it isn’t a panacea that will solve everything and miraculously win elections.

So Hazel Blears – you’re right, politicians do need to get on their soapbox and engage with the public. But don’t rule out doing that online.


Hanging on the telephone

Oh Nick Clegg. It hasn’t been a good conference for you really has it.  First you provide a textbook example of why you don’t put out a press notice with promises of unfunded taxcuts: Monday: Lib Dems – Clegg talks tax cuts

Then his entire conference was blown off the news agenda by the Labour Party in crisis.  

So after today’s speech he had a big idea. He’s going to phone 250,000 voters during Coronation Street to ask them what they think of his policies.  Only he’s not of course – it’s a recording. 

Because of course, the only thing people like more then being cold called is being cold called by a computer.  

Apparently it’s not electioneering (unsolicited recorded marketing calls are of course illegal). It’s supposed to be about listening to the views of the voters. But who really likes a recorded message that tells them they are listening?

I just can’t see what it is he’s trying to acheive. Who told them this would be a good idea?

Legitimate market research organisations that are bound by professional codes of conduct still annoy the hell out of people that they cold call. A political party making up market research as they go along is just stupid.  If he wants to listen to voters, he should at least call them himself – or go and visit them. Don’t let a recording try and do it for you.

Not only is it an ineffective strategy (where this is done in the US 65% hang up the phone in the first few seconds) but it’s a strategy the Lib Dems themselves campaigned against. They criticised the SNP for using a recording of Sean Connery to campaign in previous elections. Changing your mind on tax policy is one thing – it seems the Lib Dems want to U-Turn on everything.

The Lib Dems are in trouble at the moment. At best they are flat-lining in the polls, at worst they are haemorrhaging votes to the Tories. He’s not cutting through to the voters and stunts like this is not going to help.  He’s got to find a way to get voters to see the Lib Dems as something other then a protest vote.

UPDATE: (and a hattip to  The Information Commissioner is now demanding to see the call script after a complaint from the SNP (the people the Lib Dems complained about in the past). I hope they thought this was worth it.


The perfect storm

Whoever’s behind this knows what they are doing. The plot against Brown is a slickly organised coup, which may yet succeed. 

It’s not been the usual suspects. Barry Gardiner, Joan Ryan and Siobhan McDonagh were hardly regular members of the awkward squad and had all been given jobs by Gordon. Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers have stayed quiet so far (though you can be sure they support what’s going on).  Fiona McTaggart left the Government whilst Blair was still pretty comfortable and had never been seen as a likely rebel.  

What’s been impressive about this is how they have kept the story going day after day. A single letter (like the attempted plot to oust Blair) didnt work because it went away.  This is both capitalising on the pressure that already exists around Brown and playing the news agenda perfectly. Dripping out names and interviews day after day has ensured this story will stay in the news agenda (and all but killed the Lib Dem conference). 

Tonight they started to play their trump cards. The Standard quoted an unnamed Minister of State saying

“For the leadership to present this debate as just a dozen disaffected people is just ridiculous. By far the biggest group of Labour MPs, in my experience, is people who think he must go – and the only question that divides them is when.”

And now the BBC have this minister (probably the same one) saying: 

There just comes a point where you say, ‘I can’t go on lying’, you can’t go on saying ‘I think Gordon Brown is the man to lead us to victory’ when you don’t believe it.

They’ve played their hand now, they’ll have to resign before they are sacked. 
Now this isn’t yet a cabinet minister, but if one of those plays their hand then it surely is all over.
Gordon Brown may still attempt the speech of his life in Manchester (I don’t think he has it in him) but if he loses a cabinet minister it could be his Geoffrey Howe moment – he should watch out for savaging sheep.
This story is going on and on, and I can’t see how it can end well for Brown.