Thursday, 16 June 2011

AskEdM: What's wrong with Labour's PR machine(?)

I love the Labour party. Yesterday they made me laugh so much I almost did a tiny wee.

This isn't a defection post, it's a long overdue homage to the ability of the Labour party to knock its own PR stunts into a cocked hat and bring some much needed joy and schadenfreude to everyone else in the political village.

Yesterday, the much heralded hashtag #AskEdM appeared on Twitter. Billed as an intimate chat with the leader of the opposition, it was designed to offer the twitterati an opportunity to engage with the super-hip IT conscious Ed about his vision for Labour's return to power and what this country would look like under his stewardship. It didn't go down like that.

@DanBrusca: Hi Ed. As Prime Minister how would you handle the Kobayashi-Maru situation*?

[*reference to Star trek : a supposedly impossible test for cadets at Starfleet academy, only ever completed by Jim Kirk, in which they have to rescue a stranded federation ship from the Romulans.]

@FelicityParkes: Where did Ed Balls touch you? show us on the doll.

Everyone was at it.

@agcolehamilton: Ed, will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark? [apologies to Steven Merchant and Gareth from the Office]

Even my 9 month pregnant wife asked him where babies come from. It was a riot.

The questions continued to pour in, well past the point at which Ed threw in the towel with a right-on 'it's been a blast, lets do it again sometime' kind of tweet, at which point he probably wished that he'd spent the time prepping for next week's PMQs (let's face it he could use it).

Yesterday's fiasco is just further evidence as to how comprehensively the Labour spin machine has derailed since the heady days of Blair and Mandy. Yesterday's disaster is eclipsed only by the litany of PR catastrophes of the recent Scottish campaign, my own particular favourites being:

1: The sandwich shop dash. (needs no explanation)

2: The poster campaign to advertise it's horrendous knife crime policy: CARRY A KNIFE GO TO JAIL WITH LABOUR. There are lots of them there already and Jim Devine is getting your cell ready...

3: Iain Gray's assertion in the Lothian manifesto that he wanted 'a zero tolerance approach on literacy'. You know how it is, everyone has an aging aunt who gets wired into the sherry at Christmas and then starts composing Haikus, we all laugh politely, but it's wrong. Stamp literacy out, right out.

With at least 4 years between Labour and power in either Parliament then they have time to iron out the kinks in their messaging but for now, I can't wait to see what they come up with next...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A question of wording...

Do you think that Scottish Ministers should enter into negotiations with the UK government to set out the terms under which they might meet to discuss the terms of a discussion about giving Scotland the power to be a bit more, you know, independent?

This isn't a million miles away from what the SNP intends to ask the people of Scotland in the independence referendum that it will hold before this Parliament rises in 5 years time.

It became apparent during the election campaign that in the event of a yes vote to such a nebulous question, and once such negotiations with the mother of parliaments were concluded, the SNP would see no reason to put the outcome of those negotiations to the people in a second referendum. They contend that as with the referendum that brought about the creation of the Scottish Parliament, one vote would be mandate enough to determine Scotland's constitutional future.

Where this argument falls down is in the framing of the question. The devolution settlement referendum question was binary and left the electorate in no doubt as to what was being asked: "Do you think there should be a Scottish Parliament?", once the will of the people had been ascertained then there was a clear mandate for the creation of such an institution and therein lay the central pillar of the Scotland Act.

A question of the nature proposed by the SNP suggests the beginning of a process, where many Scots may feel that they are being asked an innocuous and unbinding question that affords them the opportunity to dip a tentative toe in the waters of nationhood, to see what an independence settlement would look like, before finally deciding if separation is for them in a second referendum to bookend the process started by the first.

SNP assertions that this would not be the case, have come as a surprise to many. If they intend to ask the people of Scotland just one question, and use the justification of the Scottish Parliamentary referendum as cover to that end, then like with the 1997 vote, the question put should be binary.

Should Scotland leave the United Kingdom and become an independent state?

Yes or No. End of.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Taken too soon. Andrew Reeves- a tribute

One of the most important voices of the Liberal Movement was silenced today.

In the small hours of 3rd June a heart attack robbed, at the brutally young age of 43, our party and our world of a campaigning Svengali, a gritty realist and one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Without Andrew Reeves in our ranks, the rebuilding of the Liberal Democrats has suddenly become that much harder.

A pioneer of the Liberal enclave of the blogsphere and twitter-feed, Andrew Reeves is one of the reasons that I and dozens of other Lib Dem activists and candidates started blogging in the first place. People might uncharitably ask if the encouragement of platoons of self indulgent hacks to take to the ether is a good thing, but any way you slice it, he helped to drag the Liberal Democrats into the 21st century. God he'd have loved the fact that he's trending 4th on twitter UK right now.

Andrew worked to cultivate an image of himself as a hard nosed no-nonsense bastard, and there were times, if, like me you came to him as a demanding whinging, prima donna candidate, he was quite happy to bring the thunder. He was however, never able to completely conceal the fluffy side of his personality. There was no subtext to Andrew, no second face and no dark side. What you saw was what you got.

2011 will now no longer be remembered by the party as a year that we got bombed into the stone age at the ballot box, but as the year we lost a friend, a campaigning thoroughbred and a lion of both Liberalism and of democracy.

Sleep well mate.