Sunday, 1 May 2011

Victims of our own success

It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day: every morning the meeja are summoned to some inane photo opportunity in some poor unsuspecting town; the respective machines reel off constant announcements and statements (go visit the Steamie to see how relentless they are); news programmes dutifully report the day’s headlines and if they’re really lucky, a gaffe. And then everyone goes leafleting, canvassing, to hustings and meetings and then they do it all again the next day. Yep, so far, so dull.

From Better Nation.

It isn't just Wales then who is having a flat campaign. To a Welsh politico this is unbelievable; imagine the excitement in Wales if we had a media focusing relentlessly on Welsh issues, a nationalist party on the cusp of a majority for an independence referendum, the polls altering dramatically over the last few months and Labour looking for a game changer to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat?

But I actually think all campaigns have become flat. Perhaps this is because campaigns have almost become too professional, too '100% success' too Starbucks in their goals. Parties I believe embrace the Cannibalization strategy.

This leads to often similar policy platforms (if you cannot beat them join them) to voters but also when a genuinely different idea breaks through it is browbeaten by crass attacks from others. I will put my money on the fact that the new Welsh Government will adopt a version of Plaid's Build for Wales idea, with or without Plaid in Government. Yet this was attacked by the other parties.

It also leads to very professional campaigns, despite the rise in social media, that cannot tolerate anything but perfect coverage. Anything as normal as meeting the odd shouty, sweary bloke who hates all politicians for reasons only known to himself is seen in politics land as a 'gaffe' or a 'crisis'.

Anything as normal as bumping into non-plussed voters, or voters hostile to your party is seen as a mistake and an image problem. You might think me naive, but in the long run the best way to promote your party is to present things sometimes as they are. That is not some naive kamakazi call for things to go to pot, but I do think that we will never get game changing campaigns if all parties seek to stick ten men behind the ball, rather than try and score some goals.

And given it was Plaid who needed to make this a far more explosive campaign, perhaps there is a lesson in there. I do accept and understand however that a good deal of people are now somehow accustomed to the 'professionalisation' of political presentation - the actor politician/party.

While I would not expect sympathy, the more the public understand what political campaign and elections are about (and let's be honest - someone has to win the election and run the Government - which I do wonder whether those refusenik seem unwilling to care about), the more we might be able to score hits and roll with the punches.


  1. Good points Maruc. Basically, Plaid, and IWJ in particular, have to say something interesting and radical but not just in the lead up to the election but, as Salmond has done, over the past 4 years.

    Salmond gets on London TV all the time because he's good copy. Ieuan is never good copy. Had Ieuan said we want to nationalise Crown Estates, then, maybe he (and by that Plaid and Wales) would have got some publicity. But he didn't.

    People are mostly conservative, so, there's no point being some Welsh SWP. But there is a space for being more radical, and, well, interesting.

    Having an equally 'safe' Labour leader and then quite non-descript Tory and and LibDem doesn't help. We need Ron in the assembly to bring some gravitas and status and someone people will make an effort to listen to.

  2. Hi Anon,

    I kind of agree, but I don't subscribe to this leadership cult type of politics. Any party that just turns to it's leader, no matter how inspirational and expect water into wine is misguided.

    'Being more like Alex Salmond...' seems like a worthwhile strategy, but it's simply nothing more than trying to push a different party/country's example into ours.

    However, where I do agree is that I believe Plaid must be far more outwardly nationalist. I do believe there is a far wider section of the electorate who are 'pro-Wales', in terms of looking to Wales to solve it's own problems, rather than leave them to London. They might not ID themselves as nationalists, they might even say they don't support independence, but they accept and want to see grow the idea of Welsh self governance.

    I don't think we do, but what I don't want to ever be as a party that is too left/right wing for centrist voters who are small N nationalists to be put off. That isn't a call for centrist policies, much of it is in tone, however I believe that the Cymru part of our name needs to shine through more.

  3. Re: Ron.

    I do find it hard to comment on people I work with closely, mainly because it's a bit embarrassing if I praise people then I have to work alongside them so to speak.

    However for Ron I will make an exception. The guy is simply a politician that Wales cannot do with out and in many ways is peerless. The response I have seen from the people of Caerphilly was a real eye opener - even non-supporters had a massive amount of respect.

    I will be working damn hard this week to get Ron into the Assembly!

  4. I've heard that knives are being sharpened and men (and a woman) in grey suits will be wanting IWJ's job on Friday - or they may leave it until Sunday.

    Who's going to lead Plaid after this election? Any ideas?

  5. Anon commenter 'hears' unfounded rumour without any evidence and posts it on a blog.

    In other news...