Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister gave his pitch to a demographic which has played a pivotal part in many electoral successes. Underlining this, Nick Clegg sought to identify to the party’s base where he envisages the party’s best chance of strategically positioning itself for 2015 is.
It appears that a key factor Nick Clegg must have taken in account in drawing up ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ is which demographic Lib Dem policies will affect best. As well as this, underneath appears to be a coded message to the growing concerns within all parts of the party as to ‘where are the voters going to come from?’
To many of this C1 ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ group, branding plays as much a part as policy, if not unfortunately a larger one, in how they vote. This revolution will be televised. In the wake of the TV leaders debate, the media is gearing itself in such a way that the impetus is on a ‘can he be trusted?’ rationale. This will be the biggest determinant in ‘Alarm Clock Britain’s’ choice.
In the past, much of the Liberal Democrats election tactics have been at a local level and have never been as professional as our opponents at communicating simple effective messages to specific demographic groups.
Neither has our ability to strategically identify where the vote comes from, as there isn’t as much continuity in the party’s vote as compared to the other parties. Interestingly, the Ashcroft focus grouping has bedazzled many of the top of the party who now realise just how much personality played a part in attracting voters to the Liberal Democrats. Therefore Nick Clegg remains the only asset the party has to offer with this demographic which is why ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ is a clever and mature move by the Deputy Prime Minister who deserves much credit.
Unfortunately and eventually, Labour is going wake up to this reality itself and will inevitability ditch Ed Miliband and for a David Miliband who, during the labour leadership election, was proved by various polls and focus grouping to emotionally connect. The Liberal Democrats need to be prepared for this strategic manoeuvring by Labour.
What’s more, many Tories openly admit their attempts to detoxify the Tory brand enough to reach ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ have failed and wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped. The coalition may, as many strategists expect, present them an opportunity of redemption. Having said that, increasingly they are becoming connected to ‘phase 2’ of the cuts, while Liberal Democrats are withdrawing from presenting ‘phase 1’. This may begin to cement the simplistic, but effective, ‘nasty party’ brand and this may prove irreconcilable to connecting with ‘Alarm Clock Britain’, leaving them open to Labour and ourselves.
Because of these possibilities, and the fact a national brand is now required, the Liberal Democrats are going to have to wise up to how those demographics consume content, what the media landscape will be like in 2015 and how the party has been about as redundant as an actor in Avatar at being able to communicate to these voters during the periods between elections when brand development is paramount. Becoming closer with News Corp should be key to this as they are the gatekeepers and have a direct phone line to ‘Alarm Clock Britain’.
The party also needs to look at reforming its national capabilities to be more responsive to branding, communicating to demographic groupings and adapting to the new dynamic and opportunities in government and new forms of content consumption. The latter remains the least important right now but it cannot be left to neutral civil services, as this domain has no arbitrators to be editorially objective or neutral.
The Deputy Prime Minister has to start to focus on himself and rebuild on his own brand on strong foundations. If Nick Clegg is to reach ‘Alarm Clock Britain’, this can’t be solely left to policy positioning. He needs to spend more time proactively defining himself rather than leaving it to the pundopoly and laying out various tactical messages. Fortunately Ed Miliband has given the Deputy Prime Minister, and the party, some much need leverage to adapt; but the clock is ticking.
Adapt and Nick Clegg may be onto something with ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ but expect the polls to flatline for most of our time in government while the cuts happen. These demographics won’t become approachable until 2013 when government wallets begin to loosen and content outlets start to gear themselves for a general election and the new dynamic of the leaders debates.
In order for this strategy to be credible requires the party has to be brand/image sensitive. In terms of strategic positioning, it’s a good start from the Deputy Prime Minister, but this may need to be refined further.
Johnny LeVan-Gilroy works in advertising and entertainment and has worked with public figures such as Amy Winehouse and Example. He was responsible for a number of campaigns during the general election such as ‘believe in fairness’. He advised Tim Farron on his presidential election strategy, messaging and communications.