Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will it work?


Too busy at the moment to think this one through, so here's a question:

Will a Labour version of the 'Tax Bombshell' campaign from 1992 ('cuts bombshell'?) do for Gordon Brown or Alan Johnson what it did for John Major?

On the admittedly adventurous assumption that it's possible, do Labour really want to win an election in the way that Major did? I suppose a low-majority Parliament would be less awkward for Labour than the Tories, Maastricht rebels and all.

But surely Labour - communications-wise - are totally stuffed? I'm conscious of all of the really solid stuff - the economy, the MPs expenses, the irresistible siren call of change, the disenchantment with a squabbling party (squabbling over what, exactly? If Labour could do itself one huge favour, it would be to deselect loads of it's prominent faces - they really are a complete dead-weight).

But for me, the whole error is compounded by the contrast with Obama. For Labour, it's like there's a fantasy world in which their great plans - all cooked up behind closed doors - will somehow be greeted with a fanfare of approval and that the only thing we've not quite got is Blair's ability to present these solutions.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying here, but I really don't think any political party will ever run a successful campaign on any issue again until it learns that ideas have to come from the public in some way - that the public need to be involved in the process. 

I'd never argue that you can earn respect or votes by asking people what you should do in office, but I'd suggest that Labour could do worse than asking people to describe the problems, or to collaboratively map out coherent proposals for change, and ensure that plenty of their own people are there in the mix providing the political ballast, saying things like 'no-one will vote for that' or 'newspaper owners have something of a veto over that.'

If you want to be cynical, it's a way of looking like you're listening. Or if you want to be a bit of a lefty, it's a way of breaking the monopsony on policy advice that is provided by civil servants, pollsters, think-tanks and pressure groups.

Either way, it'd be nice to see Labour even trying to make an effort to look like this fucking obvious possibility has vaguely occured to at least one person in the Victoria St HQ. I'd strongly suggest - with one possible exception - that it hasn't. (You know who you are, don't you, matey?)

It's probably too late, and there are probably too many new factors that dwarf the 'non-inclusive policymaking' problem. But take a look at ideas like www.debategraph.org or www.mixedink.com - again, not panaceas, but pointers to what a positive e-democracy could look like, and online indicators of what a possible offline approach could be.

Labour could do worse than trying to at least look like it doesn't think of itself as a bunch of wizards that know all of the answers.

That really would be too much of a lie to get away with.

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