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Why Do I Bother With This

2798 words - 12 pages

become President. Yet though it was an accurate expression of his modernity, underpinning its use were some very old-fashioned campaign principles. He used it to turn supporters into activists who both gave funds and also took his campaign materials and ideas and ran their own campaigns for him. Somehow he managed to make one of the most professional, most disciplined and best funded campaigns in history look like an enormous act of democratic participation.It was less command and control – the model we certainly adopted in 1997 and 2001, Labour’s two landslide victories, easing off a little for our third win in 2005 – than ‘inspire and empower.’  ‘Yes we can’ not ...view middle of the document...

The key – on this I agree totally with Seguela –  is authenticity. And that should be good news for authentic political leaders and an authenticity hungry public alike.The public tend to get to the point of an election. Seguela has an interesting account of the last UK election and in particular the first ever televised Leaders’ Debates. Though I had worked on three campaigns for Tony Blair, I am sufficiently tribally Labour to have answered a call from his successor, Gordon Brown, to go back to help him for his first election campaign as leader in 2011. One of the roles I ended up playing was that of David Cameron in Brown’s preparatory sessions for the TV debates. These debates mattered, that much was sure. Election planning for Blair, I had always been doubtful about the benefit of such debates in a Parliamentary democracy where our leaders meet each other week in week out in the crucible of the House of Commons. I was worried the media would make them all about themselves, and that the policy issues would be drowned out. So it proved. Yet in a way the public did get to the point they wanted to. They did not particularly want Labour back after 13 years in power. They did not particularly yearn for David Cameron and a Conservative Party unsure about its direction. So the third party leader emerged through the middle. Nick Clegg was judged the clear winner by the instant reactions of public and media alike. For a few days he seemed impregnable. Yet come the vote, he did not make a huge breakthrough. It was only because neither Labour nor the Tories could get over the line that Clegg ended up as deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government. The country had not been able to make its mind up, delivered a muddled result and asked the leaders to sort it out. The leader who came first and the leader who came third did a deal to do so.I think Seguela is too kind to Cameron. Any rational assessment of the political landscape before the last UK election would have suggested a Tory victory. Labour in power a long time; the economic crash; a Parliament dominated by a scandal involving MPs’ expenses; Iraq back in the news because of the official Inquiry; Afghanistan not going well; the press even more strongly in favour of a Tory win than they had been for a Labour win in 1997, and vicious about Brown. Also the Tories had big money to spend on the campaign and Labour did not. Yet Cameron could not secure a majority. Why not? There is no simple answer. The wonder of democracy lies in millions of people having their own experiences, impressions and judgements before deciding how to cast their vote. But the strategist in me says the simple answer is that Cameron lacked real strategic clarity. I think Sequela would agree that for all the changes that technological and mediatic change has forced upon political campaigns, strategy remains the key. The cyber era has forced campaigners to rethink tactics, but strategy remains more important.He and I...

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