With the gap in the opinion polls seemingly shortening, what measures might Labour take to accelerate their position, and is there the time, and a convincing enough argument to move ahead?
As I run a company working in advertising, it is irresistible for me not to contrive of prescriptive shorthand bullet points for how to achieve answers to all sorts of problems. I love an underdog too! Here’s 3 steps I would pitch to Labour’s 2017 campaign boss: Would it convince you though?
I am betting that like me, you would very much like to see a fairer, more equal society; a world featuring a balanced distribution of opportunity, wealth and power while embracing a diversity of opinion and beliefs. I reckon if I asked them, my three children would love to grow up in such a place and I would bet their school shirts that if they asked their mates, then they would be up for that kind of vision too. Who, regardless of whatever political stripe they are painted, would turn it down?
In my reading of the Labour Party’s actual policies, the stuff they believe in, I find that they also want the same society as the one described above. Amazing! It transpires that lots of other people who have taken the time to read Labour Party policy are also similarly moved to say yep, that chimes with me!
Especially if, according to a Yougov poll, those policies were not attributed to any party at all when they read them! The poll implies the respondents prefer Labour’s thinking, but that this does not translate to support for the party when it’s revealed whose policies they are. In other words, those surveyed were influenced by the tone and tenor of the fierce media furore that has existed around the current leader. It’s a problem for sure, but what to do about it? How wide and how many are the strides needed to step it up in the polls?
1. IDENTIFY THE EASY WINS AND WIN THEM!
There are circa 16 million Millennials (18-34) in the UK. That’s enough to swing an argument one-way or the other, and there is rock solid rationale as to why they should give their vote to the candidate wearing a red rosette. This age group, due to economic forces beyond their control, have been excluded from the opportunities afforded to previous generations. This is not new news. Your average millennial is struggling with the idea that they may never own their own home.
They probably won’t even get a chance to stand at the foot of the property ladder and hold it for their kids to climb!
Huge swathes of them are still bunking up with the folks; 30 to 34% of them according to where you read. Consequently, they are more than a little peeved. For this generation, this is a situation unlikely to get any better under the auspices of those who will be sporting a blue rosette on June 8th. Whereas team Red are offering hope with promises such as a living wage, axing university fees, building houses, reining in the excesses of private landlords, increasing corporation tax and diverting the proceeds back into society. These are the sorts of things a millennial with a grudge might swing behind.
To add insult to a slap in the face, this group will be most affected by the long-term fallout of Brexit. Especially the ‘hard’ version as envisioned by Theresa May. 73% of young people favoured Remain, and in the case of the 1.4 million university students, 94% of them registered to vote in advance of the EU referendum. As we now know, the sad truth is that they did not turn up to vote in such numbers, and as a collective they are now living to regret that.
Moreover, should they not wish to blame themselves, their current plight can definitely be pinned, like a wilted buttonhole, on the lapel of a former prime minister of the current government.
Voting Labour in this election will give young people a real chance to vent. The party’s election campaign needs to keep up the pressure in getting this generation registered to vote, and this time, keep reminding them, over and over again, why they should be angry. That should ensure they actually get down to the polling station come June 8th!
2. HEAT UP THE POSITIVES / FREEZE OUT THE NEGATIVES
Regardless of where you stand on the Corbyn debate, and lets face it, there is a very full spectrum of opinion here, it is now irrelevant. Theresa May has rang the bell and Corbyn is the man in the opposite corner, but who is Joshua, and who is Klitschko? To win out, Labour has to really amplify the positives, and even the most fervent detractor would admit to some, while deftly side stepping the negatives.
Corbyn’s so called ‘unelectable’ quality is easily cast aside. The man has proved he is in fact electable, in fairly spectacular style, in not one but two gruelling leadership contests. He has previous form! There is more to be cantilevered here;
If either of Corbyn’s leadership contests where actually an opinion poll to gauge the mood of a nation, then Corbyn’s sample size would be very robust in research industry terms.
Polls and most bodies of research are conducted by consulting on average, several hundred people, and at best several thousand. Obviously the more people in your sample size the more robust the research industry will consider your work. Take BARB for instance, which is a broadcaster and ad industry initiative designed to ascertain the TV viewing habits of the UK. This has a sample size of 5,100 homes and returns the data of some 11,500 people in those homes. This information is used to aggregate the behaviour of 26 million TV viewing households, and so help advertisers determine where staggering amounts of advertising money will get spent. It is considered exceptionally robust.
Corbyn’s second leadership election expanded Labour’s eligible voter base to well over 500,000 making it the biggest party in Europe. 313,209, or 62% of those eligible, voted Corbyn. A very robust sample size! Corbyn’s detractors seeking to undermine such a convincing endorsement have claimed a secret cabal of extreme left-wingers signed up in droves to vote. Which is a charge that would raise more than a few chuckles in court; the biggest far left wing organisation in the UK is the Socialist Workers Party with a reported membership of less than 6000. The numbers simply don’t stack up!
So, if its not left wing extremists who got him to the party top job, then a sample size of this magnitude would be highly likely to represent the views of a much wider body of ordinary people.
All of whom must have recognised other qualities they valued beyond pure leadership ability; which include the perception that he is an honest man, someone you can trust, who has integrity, and other such superlatives that don’t ordinarily trip off the tongue when the word preceding them is politician! And as we have seen since, he certainly possesses dignity under fire – a much needed quality in office. It is these descriptors that need to be amplified to out shout the too familiar narrative that Corbyn does not cut it as a leader in the traditional sense. Each and every time that singular argument is trotted out, turn up the heat on the positives and freeze out the negatives. Then turn the narrative back to the policies as quickly as you can! Make the vote about the party, not one man!
3. CHANGE THE TONE OF VOICE / STOP TALKING TO THE ENEMY
All advertising seeks to influence and change the behaviour of an audience, and there are some basic psychological rules as to how you approach such an objective. These rules hold true even if you are embroiled in the tribal heat of an election campaign. To close that gap and overtake, in this election, or the next, Labour are going to have to influence a chunk of people who may currently identify as blue, or are wavering but leaning to the right, or are in fact swayed by the hysterical obsession with the stylistic contrast between May and Corbyn as mentioned earlier.
To win over any crowd, and more so a tough crowd, you cannot open dialogue by introducing the barrier that will be inevitably pulled up because you started with the wrong tone of voice, by addressing your audience as the enemy.
And yet, this is exactly what happens time and time again in campaign communications and in party meetings up and down the land.
My advice would be to stop shouting Tories Out, and drop all reference to Tories as ‘the enemy’ in any campaign communication, whether that’s within a humble press release, a tweet, a clarion call when out canvassing, a strap line in your advertising and all points in between. In fact; negate the power of the word Tory completely by pretending it does not exist; In an election campaign it will always be right and proper to call out current policy failing and illustrate the negative impact it may have on society. But don’t call it a Tory failure! Sure, call it callous or uncaring, but always, always, always substitute the word Tory for the rather bland nomenclature of the phrase ‘ ‘current government’ when attributing such shortcomings.
In so doing it suggests, by the very use of the word current, that their tenure is temporary, but you also give permission to any wavering, or potential voter listening to you, to switch sides, to change their minds, to come over to your viewpoint, to not break tribal lines. Don’t think of those you need to influence as the enemy, think of them as an ally in waiting!
In summary; Press home the argument to the audiences with most to gain from a more equal society, make it about the long term party vision, not a single personality and…
Don’t go to war. Go on a diplomacy mission!
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SOURCES AND REFERENCES:
3. Current size of the Labour Party in comparison with other UK political parties according to UK Parliament:
4. Size of the Membership of the Socialist Workers Party:
5. Preference for Labour Party policy versus Conservative
6. Estimate size of UK Millennial generation:
7. University students and their relationship with the EU referendum:
8. Young people and Brexit:
9. BARB and how it works: