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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who are they again?

The theory that Gordon Brown is a really unpopular Prime Minister who cannot hope to be re-elected has been blown out of the water today by a survey by student accommodation provider Unite, who have found that most people do not know who he is.

The survey found that one in three University students is unaware that Gordon Brown is the leader of the Labour Party, a similar number could not identify David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party, while only 48 per cent were able to name Nick Clegg as the Liberal Democrat leader.

To be fair if more students than this had been able to identify the respective leaders I would have been worried. After all they have bigger things to worry about, such as all the debt they have been saddled with by successive Labour and Tory Governments.

Interestingly, the survey also found that half of students said they are unlikely to vote in the forthcoming general election, but almost three in 10 said they would vote if all the main political parties pledged to drop tuition fees.

As the only party pledged to phase out tuition fees that finding may be a major benefit to the Liberal Democrats in the forthcoming campaign.
In pre-emption of any who would say that this is evidence of students lacking knowledege of current affairs, UNITE tend to operate a particular type of student accomodation with very high numbers of international students. This could explain the lack of awareness.
I take Dominic's point about UNITE, but our reaction to this should be "WOW - WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY!".

Here are all these people coming totally fresh to this, so they won't be looking at us with the usual prejudiced assumptions coming from years of propaganda and biased coverage we tend to assume voters have.

I'm confident enough in what our party stands for and why democracy is a good idea, that I am sure that something pretty straightforward explaining it to them will bring them out to vote - for us.

We should do more not just to sell ourselves but the general idea of democracy and how we work as a political party and how that gives ordinary people a way to shape how their country works. Instead, too much of our campaigning is based on the notion that they know all this, so the main job we have to do is to stop them voting for the other parties by rubbishing those other parties.

We need a different sort of human-oriented campaign, so all these "I never bother with politics, it's nothing to do with me" people can see what we are - a group of people who have got together to use what democracy provides for us. Everything we do must be oriented around making us seem to be ordinary people, part of the community. Not salesmen for some dubious product doing what the marketing managers in HQ are telling us to do.

Look - if we did what I am saying, I am sure we would win over so many of that VAST number of people who have been put off politics because of the way it is practiced and the sort of anti-politics mentality that is so strong at the moment - deliberately cultivated by those who stand to benefit from it.

So why can't we do this? Why do we have this boring logo-oriented ad-man's campaign already lined up as what we will be doing in the general election this year?

Once we knew better. The political geniuses who invented "community politics" were not professional ad-men, but people who from their knowledge of the ground dreamt up a different way of doing politics which they knew would work by making people think of it in a different way and bringing out those who didn't vote in the past. THAT is how our party revived and became what it is now.

It is unfortunate that community politics became stuck in a rut and did not develop the potential it could have done. It is still difficult to talk about this without being accused of being partisan or raking up old rows, because it was the mistakes made in the 1980s that pushed it into that rut.

But even so, when it has become just a few sometimes tired ploys, it is still surprisingly successful when done well, and its success comes down to not being what people think "politics" is. We should learn from that.
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