Avast! How Clegg and Alexander are doing it wrong.

(Cross-posted from here)

This article pretty much sums up what is wrong with the party’s communication strategy at the moment. Apart from the fact that it has been published roughly four days too late, it repeats many of the mistakes we witnessed last weekend.

Reading it carefully, it is clear what Danny is getting at. But journalists don’t – and often can’t – spend time reading the subtle nuances of every press release and statement. I’m not sure if the talk about ‘the vast majority of the “spare” money’ going on tax cuts is part of a thought out strategy, or a retrofit designed to spare Nick Clegg’s blushes following the Telegraph interview, but its potential to mislead is, well, vast.

Let’s be clear: if the £20bn of savings is to be earmarked for existing spending commitments, then that means that only £2-4bn will be left for tax cuts. Whichever way you spin it, that is not a “vast” amount of money – perhaps a penny in the pound on the basic rate of income tax (which will benefit low income earners not one jot). So why all this talk of “vastness”?

There’s nothing wrong with admitting that any tax cuts we come up with are likely to be modest – given the current economic climate it is prudent to be prudent. All this talk of “vastness” is an open invitation to misinterpretation.

Several people walked away from the “Make it Happen” launch in July under the genuine impression that Clegg had promised £20bn in tax cuts (Iain Dale even described that sum in his Telegraph column as a small amount). We can’t keep leaving so much room for confusion and doubt. And that means choosing words much more carefully.

NB My Parliamentary Monitor article, which is related to this subject, is now readable online to all and sundry.

8 thoughts on “Avast! How Clegg and Alexander are doing it wrong.

  1. The liberals are in trouble simply because they can’t or won’t play the system.

    Take Chris Hulne the other day talking about knife crime. Not a single person walked away with the message “the liberals will be tough on crime” – something the electorate want to here. Instead they all reported on his biggest ill advised statement to date, “current knife crime laws go far enough” – something the electorate both doesn’t want to here and doesn’t agree with.

    I’m starting to wonder whether the Liberals actually want ANY votes at the next election :(

  2. “current knife crime laws go far enough”

    Posession of a bladed item in a public place with a good reason is an offence punishable by up to four years in prison. What else is needed?

    It’s a particularly important point when the Labour government has introduced hundreds of new offences – many of which have been passed by Parliament but not given commencement orders and some of which have been repealed without ever coming in to force. Very few of the concerns that people raise aren’t already covered by existing laws.

  3. @Hywel

    I actually agree, but the electorate doesn’t, and doesn’t want to hear that.

    The electorate want a government that is tough on crime, that will help the poor, keep the cost of living low, safeguard jobs and working conditions etc..

    Guess who’s agreeing with them, and promising to deliver on those promises? (Not that they will of course) The Tories. Guess who’s miles ahead in the polls? The Tories.

    All the liberals have these days is continued focus on green issues, while people are losing their homes and struggling to afford food and fuel, and telling the public that despite the media lambasting existing laws and the governments failure to tackle violent crime, that existing laws go far enough!

    It’s not the focus the electorate want and it’s not what the electorate want to hear.

    Therefore, unless the liberals get their asses into gear, they will always be a minority party. It actually doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong, it’s all about what the electorate hears, and what the electorate wants to hear.

    If Nick Clegg was serious about challenging the government and snapping at the tories heels, he would focus on the issues that matter to the electorate at this moment in time, and explain succinctly how he is the man to fix them, not Cameron, and certainly not Brown.

    The Lid Dems need to be led, and they need to be more focused on the electorate. At the moment they remind me of a failing company who is telling their customers what they need, and not the other way around. No-one buys from a company like that, not a sole.

  4. “The electorate want a government that is tough on crime, that will help the poor, keep the cost of living low, safeguard jobs and working conditions etc.”

    Fine – but on the tough on crime point that doesn’t mean that you need new laws. This is like in Yes Minister where Hacker says he needs to do something about X.

    Sir Humphrey replies, “actually do something or be seen to do something?”

    “it’s all about what the electorate hears, and what the electorate wants to hear.”

    Maybe our platform at the next election should reintroduce public flogging, send the immigrants back and shut down the mosques then? Our purpose as a party is to change attitudes not to pander to them.

  5. “Our purpose as a party is to change attitudes not to pander to them.”

    That is exactly why the liberals won’t get anywhere. It’s almost an arrogant “we know best attitude”.

    The public: “We’re sick to death of knife crime and we need tougher laws”

    The Liberals: “Wrong, we don’t need them, current laws go far enough!”

    The Tories: “I agree with the public, we will be the party to really clamp down on kniife crime!”

    Labour: “We agree with the public too, and we’re getting on with the job….”

    Guess who the public will vote for? Guess who will form the next government, and will actually have a chance to put their principals into action?

    The lib dems are nothing more than principalled isolationists unless they start changing.

  6. What I, and I suspect the public, want to hear is that existing laws will be enforced, for a change.

    Parliament is operating in an ivory tower where it thinks a failure to enforce one law can be made good by passing another law.

  7. Still doesn’t get it :(

    It doesn’t MATTER that you’re right. What matters is whether the electorate cares, and they don’t. They just see the Tory party tackling the issue, Labour doing nothing, and the Lib Dems pledging to do nothing while being ripped to shreds in the press.

    It’s all about delivery. How about if Chris Hulne used the phrase, “The Lib Dems will clamp down on knife crime”? Makes a better headline than “Existing laws go far enough”.

    The Lib Dems are totally incapable of playing the game, and as such all their noble policies will have exactly no chance of being implimented. Where’s the good in that?

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