30 August 2012

Clegg supporters' circle the wagons

Matthew Oakeshott's sensible advice in the Grauniad that the Lib Dems should look at 'strategy and management' in trying to turn round their dire poll ratings has been seized on as a call for a new leader.  Cable loyalist Oakeshott may well have intended it to be so, but it shouldn't be the case.

Sadly, the reaction from Clegg's spin doctors and advisors - wheeling out Paddy Ashdown, Simon Hughes and Tim Farron in his support - made Oakeshott's case for him.

It goes without saying that a change of strategy is needed.  The constant relaunches of Clegg and policy flip flops, forced 'differentiation' with the Tories and kite flying have all the hallmarks of the dying days of the Brown administration.

It's this PR led search for publicity that has so called 'cut-through' - getting into people's non-short term memories - that is the problem - not the solution.  'Alarm clock Britain' may well have delighted the youthful PR types who make up the bulk of Clegg's advisers as it had 'cut through' - but it only did so because it was ugly, ludicrous and confirmed everything a now sceptical audience thought about Clegg's political naievity.

Successful political campaigns aren't built on a day's or a week's or even a month's media coverage - they are built over time on consistent values and messaging.  Clegg's problem is that in trying to turn his image around he is constantly shifting further and further away from the things that made him attractive to people in the spring of 2010.

So Oakeshott is right - those who advise Clegg have failed to understand the basic necessities of political campaign management.  They have no strategy for government and seemingly no idea how to turn things around.

As they say in the wonderful world of Scottish football - Clegg's 'coat is on a shoogly peg'.  But in my view he clearly has the talent and ability to turn it around.  The question however is does he have the political nouce to understand that spin and PR are part of the problem and the political kahunas to do something about it?

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