Opinion: The final frontier of the electorate

web snoopers charterAt the core of the problems we’ve faced over the last few days is the daunting realisation that something has to change. But in the ensuing skirmish over what to change, it has become apparent that it is not the leadership. The #libdems4change movement has not provided a political coup in the party. But it has provided a mental one, a revolution of hearts and minds. Not towards a new way of thinking, but towards a new vigour in pursuing our cause. In many ways, it had to happen.

I started this week supporting LibDem4Change, I confess. It was a knee-jerk reaction for many who believed passionately about the need for revival and renewal (which is incidentally why those who signed the petition should not be criticised for their actions). But in the following days, the solidarity shown by the parliamentary party, and the renewed vigour with which Clegg gave his address to party members, instilled in me a confidence that the party will not stagnate, wither and die.

The change will thus have to come in how we display our message. The revolution will, indeed, be televised. This doesn’t mean that the underlying policies and beliefs should be altered to appeal to the right or left as some suggest, but that they should be given a face-lift. A new type of literature must be shoved through letterboxes, pasted on our posters and (most importantly) flashed on our TV screens. In an era when the best Labour can throw together is a comedy sketch, and the Tories an PR-disaster poster, a strong, appealing and modern campaign will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

We know we can do it, indeed the infamous 2010 “No More Broken Promises” video is now overlooked for how well it works as a medium indicative of a fresh approach. So does the “Ask Yourself A Question” video, hard hitting and poignant. There is extensive Lib Dem presence on social media. But it doesn’t stand out yet. Imagine the possible ramifications of a viral Liberal Democrat PEB, one so well put together and inspiring that it reaches beyond the political sphere and infiltrates popular culture. Indeed UKIP seem to have tapped into this market, with a series of posters that have become etched into public consciousness. Where are the large scale Lib Dem posters, with slogans that are as hope-inspiring as “whose job are they after?” is spiteful.

Talk of “Get Out The Vote” will be futile if we can’t inspire voters. And to inspire them, we have to take ourselves to the space they inhabit most comfortably. It is on social media now that people feel engaged with the happenings of the world. By putting ourselves there we will appear relevant, modern and talented.

No party in this country has tapped properly into new social media. A party that regularly uploads new videos of an artistic qualities to YouTube and that engages with individuals on Facebook or Twitter with humour and eloquence (as Clegg has begun to do) will have landed like Columbus on the shores of a new continent of voters.

So come on Liberal Democrats, as we move forward, let’s tap into the final frontier of the electorate, the internet.

 

* Guy Russo was the Parliamentary Candidate in Enfield North at the General Election and is an Ex-President of the Queen Mary University of London Liberal Democrats.

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12 Comments

  • How about this, for a change: appeal to voters’ intellects, not their emotions. Spell out policies in detail — be wordy if you must (though not for its own sake) and give voters access to all the information they need to make up their minds. If there is a complicated rationale behind a policy, walk voters through the reasoning in detail — don’t give them meaningless canned answers. Ask yourself why you found the policy persuasive, and attempt to communicate that persuasion to the voter. If you can’t articulate that, then ask whether the policy really has persuaded you, and whether it might not be better given up.
    Above all, never create a policy just because you think it’s the kind of thing people might vote for, but which you cannot justify in any other way. That sort of approach will land you in all sorts of hypocrisy. Make your platform match your principles, and don’t go for the cheap vote. That way you’ll never have to turn around and disavow a policy that you never really meant.
    And then stick to your principles. Don’t compromise them for short-term advantage. The long-term kickback for abandoning them is a killer. Be the kind of Party that your supporters expect you to be.

  • Well done, Guy. It is so important that we get our message out loud and clear and we start doing it now ahead of the other parties. Using social media is definitely a way forward and a relatively cheap method of campaigning.

    I agree in part with David that we do need to be more explicit about our policies and ideology but I am fearful that we have been too intellectual in our responses in the past and what is really called for is plain speak that can capture the imagination of the electorate as a whole.

  • When it comes to the electorate, the gut beats the head every time, unfortunately. Blue, red and purple all tap into fear and greed and get the ballot box payoff. Not sure how you ever square that circle.

  • @Tabman
    It depends on whether you are prepared to argue the case. If you do not argue your case with evidence, then people are not persuaded. The problem is not the voter but the politician who seems to go with instinct and then wonders why no one believes him

  • Voter – in my experience people don’t like having their prejudices overturned by reason; it tends to make them hate the messenger for using what they see as sophistry.

  • Andy McGregor 28th May '14 - 9:36pm

    I see two opposite influences in social media.
    First the ever shorter attention span, and need for ” sound bird” and dumbing down the message
    Secondly is the ability to use the technology to link to actual source documents, I believe ( hope) there are still many people who do have time to dig a bit deeper into the facts before making their mark on the ballot paper.
    It is over simplistic to stick to the old message of just repeat it and get more Focuses through the letter box. The party needs to be able to have longer, more in depth dialogue with potential voters. Social media must be harnessed to help but there is no substitute for old style face to face on the door step interaction.
    I have helped a little in the NE for the Euro campaign and stood (unsuccessfully) in 2013 for the County Council some times when rushing round delivering I have thought it might have had more impact to spend the time talking to people, attempting to explain our wish for a Fair , free & open society…….
    Maybe I am naive but it would certainly differentiate us from other parties who have, unfortunately, received more votes recently!

  • Michael “It is so important that we get our message out loud and clear”

    Sorry but what message exactly?

  • Andy “thought it might have had more impact to spend the time talking to people, attempting to explain our wish for a Fair , free & open society…….Maybe I am naive but it would certainly differentiate us from other parties who have, unfortunately, received more votes recently!

    I don’t think you are naive, I actually do think you are right but the only question I have for you is : what have the Councillors and activists been doing in the run-up to the recent elections if not this? Many of them have told us what they heard on the doorstep, hence some of them have been calling for Clegg to stand down. .

  • @Tabman
    It takes time but evidence is the way to go. The LibDems could do better in explaining the position on Europe in terms of evidence. Some run bloggers just assume they are right and complain about the academics rejecting their views due to orthodoxy. Ask them to actually support their views with evidence and they run a mile

  • Shaun Nichols 28th May '14 - 10:05pm

    So you have gone from calling for a leadership election to supporting the status-quo inside of 72 hours. Well done.

    So why should I listen to you? Because you advocate a re-branding exercise? Great. Someone call the team at Saatchi & Saatchi. ‘Cool’ graphics on glossy flyer is all well and good but if the content doesn’t chime with voters and is taken straight to the bin (recycling bin I hope) then what is the point?

  • Kevin Colwill 29th May '14 - 6:57am

    It’s simple. The elephant in the room as your popularity rose was how many Lib Dem voters really wanted the Lib Dems (or even know what they stood for) and how many were ABC (Anything But Conservative) or ABL (Anything But Labour) voters.
    I hope I was a bit more than an ABC voter but I did buy into voting Lib Dem to “keep the Tory out”. It didn’t work did it?
    Ever since the rose garden there’s been a lot of us just not listening. It’s swearing at the telly when Nick Clegg appears stuff.
    Mr Russo is 16 and from London., of course he doesn’t relate to that. Nor will most of you who’re signed up to support team Lib Dem whatever happens.
    But that’s the reality for me and I know I’m far from being alone.

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th May '14 - 11:53am

    The revolution will, indeed, be televised. This doesn’t mean that the underlying policies and beliefs should be altered to appeal to the right or left as some suggest, but that they should be given a face-lift. A new type of literature must be shoved through letterboxes, pasted on our posters and (most importantly) flashed on our TV screens.

    Oh, gosh… Trust in the orange birdie is in short supply. Therefore, as Kevin says, a lot of people just will not listen no matter how glossy your literature or how Botoxed your talking heads may be, precisely because there is no (r)evolution in simply slapping an extra coat of makeup on the same old same old, and no reason for people to start listening again. Had ’em, lost ’em.

    As for social media, I notice regularly that people on my Twitter feed are indeed engaging with politics, usually with some combination of sarcasm and bitterness. Search for LibDem on Twitter and see what you get today. In the last hour or so, most frequently used words include ‘toxic’, ‘chaos’, ‘anticlegg’, ‘plot’, ‘admit’, ‘hate’, ‘deny’ and ‘Tory’. Social media tends to broaden the reach of whatever’s going on. A Twitter search shows that what’s currently going on is: most people are pretty ticked off with the Lib Dems and/or amused by the current drama.

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