Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Lib Dems drop to lowest poll rating for 19 years as Ed Milliband fails to win support

Interesting poll from Ipsos Mori and the Guardian today showing support for the Lib Dems at only 11% - a 19 year low:


The other stand out statistic is that Ed Milliband only has a +1 satisfaction rating after 3 months in office - the lowest for a new leader since Michael Foot.

Despite all this, David Cameron and the Conservatives seem to have retained support - despite controlling the majority of Government offices in a time of unprecedented cuts.

I put this down to perceptions of principle. Voters know Cameron and Osborne's agenda. They have made a clear and concise statement - we are going to cut and cut deeply. They have no plan B (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/spending-review/8077541/Spending-review-2010-Theres-no-Plan-B-says-George-Osborne.html).

This strategy has been extremely unpopular yet still the Conservatives have been perceived to be straight talking and the venom of the liberal left has been directed at the 'betrayal' of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.

Even big business leaders such as Phillip Green have been attacked ahead of the Chancellor.

I believe this is because voters seem to be anxious to see the results of this plan. Yet they are still suffering and hurting and who better to take it out on than a Lib Dem party flip flopping over student fees and one uncomfortable in its own skin at the present time.

Nick Clegg needs to find definition to salvage his reputation.

Definition is also something lacking for Ed Milliband. Normally, I wouldn't see this as a problem but I was concerned to see the younger Milliband brother hold the first of new regular press conferences this week.

Press conferences, after three months and without any clear policy direction? The strategy seems to be hold this rather grand sounding review, then drag it out whilst taking pot shots at the government. That may have worked for another Leader of the Opposition but not one who was a Minister in the last Cabinet months ago.

I'm afraid Mr Milliband will need to shelve the press briefings and find a niche, a cause. Even Cameron defined himself in the early days - even though the 'green' credentials were shed, logo aside.

Expect the Labour logo re-design soon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tuition Fees Increase and Riots put UK Democracy under spotlight

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing" Jon Stewart

As the Lib Dem and Tory Whips scuttled round the Commons effectively coercing a majority of 21 to pass a vote to increase tuition fees which will increase some fees to £9k a year, London was anarchic.

My brother sent me a picture of the police 'kettling' and it looked truly terrifying. He also reported to me gangs of young trouble makers in masks, clearly not there for a peaceful protest and with little passion about the cause of the protest. He remarked that it was similar to a gang of football hooligans infiltrating a peaceful march.

The images of Charles and Camilla's car being attacked, of original windows in the Supreme Court being smashed, of a disabled man being dragged by police out of his wheel chair - they shame this country by revealing the dearth of democracy on our streets.

More than that, the true tragedy is that the hard working students who have tried to press the debate, such as the NUS leaders, have been let down. They'll now be painted as rioters, as selfish, as the one niche in society unwilling to pay their way when the going gets tough.

Nick Clegg will fair no better. He has been dismissive of the student voice, so shamed by the picture of him proudly signing a pledge not to increase tuition fees which he gladly posed for before the election.

Rather than delay this law and try and form a truly open dialogue, the Coalition has got into a 'tit for tat' public argument. Hyperbole has been the order of the day. 

For example, only a day before the vote, the Deputy Prime Minister uses the media to talk of 'dreamers' and over simplistic syntax - this adds fuel to the protesters' fire, it takes the debate nowhere:

''I would feel ashamed if I didn't deal with the way that the world is, not simply dream of the way the world I would like it to be,'' the Deputy Prime Minister said.
''In the circumstances in which we face, where there isn't very much money around, where many millions of other people are being asked to make sacrifices, where many young people in the future want to go to university – we have to find the solution for all of that.
''I believe that asking graduates to make a contribution – and only make a contribution after they have left university, no upfront fees whatsoever, and only when they have earned a considerably more amount of money than they do under the present system – that is the best possible choice we could have taken.''

This is paralleled by the physical hyperbole of some of the violence last night. It is an eye for an eye, the 'haves versus the have nots'. 

Only, it is not that simple. It is the physical embodiment of a vacuous space void of true dialogue, of engagement - of democracy.

Britain has always turned to violence when democracy fails, from the Corn Laws to the Poll Tax. It is a nasty underbelly which gives lie to our projection of a civilised Western society.

For the real loser hear has been democracy. In extinguishing the flames on Trafalgar Squares Christmas Tree last night, officers signaled the dawn of a new dark age of ideas. Trapped by a blanket of reaction, our politicians are fed by fear and our public is at odds with the debate, unable to find a door to enter the debate. Without this, the UK will be led kicking and screaming through the fall-out from the recession.

Thought, reason and judgement will be muffled through the prism of apathy.

Jon Stewart was right, when we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

WikiLeaks US Embassy Cables and democracy

Everyone needs to be following the Guardian's rolling blog of the WikiLeaks US Embassy Cables http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2010/nov/28/wikileaks-us-embassy-cables-live-blog?intcmp=239

It's going to take hours to digest the information but what's clear from initial responses from the US Secretary of State is that WikiLeaks will be condemned by officials around the glove for what it has done; as will the media who report the stories.

My first question is, why? Surely states will already know most of the details from their own intelligence? I think it's more of a case that is alters the position of the world the US has tried to give people through its own propaganda and media operation.

What this story gives people, because it has been syndicated throughout the globe using the internet, is a genuine insight into the real relationship between the world's leading superpower and other states and this is a game changer, make no mistake.

How it impacts on investigative reporting and journalism should also be fascinating - will it redefine the rules of engagement? WikiLeaks has already reported it is under denial of service attack today.

Ultimately the most important question is whether the leak is positive for democracy or damaging to it? I don't think we will truly be able to assess this until it plays out but what's clear is that this is the most controversial leak in history and a day we will never forget.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Rupert Murdoch creating digital newspaper for iPad

Rupert Murdoch has been absolute in his determination that online journalism should be payed for and now CNN reports, via WDD, that he's taking this to the next level with a bespoke digital newspaper for iPad: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/mobile/11/21/ipad.daily/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

The news is no surprise as Mr Murdoch indicated back in August that he saw Apple's latest invention as a 'game changer' and a device which had the potential to rejuvenate journalism: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/05/ipad-rupert-murdoch-apple-newscorp

If the story is correct then I think that it is a positive move for the future of journalism as it could undoubtedly help the transition from print to digital news which has so far seen traditional media try to stem the flow and catch up, but not create or innovate - leaving journalism under threat in the age of Google and Facebook.

And, of course, rather like the launch of the Independent's 'I', it leads to accusations that could the new format cannibalise its print brethren; yet no one knows at this juncture and with advertising revenues continuing to falter around the word then there's no reason not to try and forge a viable economic model for the industry from new technology like the iPad.

Murdoch's detractors may not like it but yet again the mogul seems to be one step ahead.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New York, New York

I'm here in the Big Apple working with the fabulous Euro RSCG Worldwide PR team.

It's great to be able to spend time with Marian Salzman and her colleagues - it's an honour, in fact. During my time here I am looking at traditional and social media conversations in the US and how they compare and contrast to the UK. It's been a fascinating couple of days and I'll make sure I blog my findings.

I've also found time to take in a trip to the theater and I saw Al Pacino in the Merchant of Venice. Never the easiest play to perform, I have to say it was brilliant. Pacino's Shylock struck the right balance between humour, bitterness and did what the character is meant to in my humble opinion - leave you questioning whether you sympathise with him or whether you applaud his downfall. Not something to debate here given the anti-Semite themes there may or may not be, depending on how one critiques the play.

Anyhow, just a quick update from me, I'll be sure to report back soon.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Minister Jeremy Browne branded racist on Question Time

Just watched Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne be branded racist by a heckler on Question Times because of a comment he made about the French.

I don't think Mr Browne intended it to come across as anything but a satirical joke - but instead the awkward delivery just sounded vaguely racist.

When briefing public figures on unscripted interviews or panels you simply must ensure they don't ad lib jokes - it never works.

Just ask President Obama: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7129997&page=1

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Boris Johnson's 'social cleansing' comment will damage coalition

Thomas Paine wrote 'that the summer solider.. will, in crisis, shrink from the service of his country.'

For the Prime Minister, he must be cursing the first summer soldier to stick his head above the parapet, the blonde mop of the Mayor of London.

This is because Boris Johnson's comments that he won't allow welfare cuts in London to be 'Kosovo like social cleansing' are more than just another 'Bojo' gaffe http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/borisjohnson/8094281/David-Cameron-criticises-Boris-Johnson-over-Kosovo-social-cleansing-comments.html

What is shows is that with a Mayoral election on the horizon, Boris is prepared to put the coalition's neck on the line ahead of his own. The summer soldier is ready to turn his rifle on his own party.

This is before the full effect of any cuts have become apparent.

I am confident this public use of such strong (and completely unnecessary) language will damage the coalition because it sets a precedent.

Long into the night, when the winter of discontent has left its bite on the country, Lib Dem and Tory MPs will face the same decision as the Mayor.

Do we stick to the coalition line or do we play to the crowd, to try and battle Labour on the anti-coalition vote?

They may well take a glance at Boris, daring to march against the agreed line and see if he still holds power in the Capital.

If he does, then temptation will take hold.

It's not just a gaffe, Boris, it's a damaging blow to the coalition's internal and external reputation.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Rescue of the Chilean miners is a public relations operation

In the UK, our public figures do not miss an opportunity to comment on the issues of the day, no matter how trivial. If it means they can get in the media or win a vote, they will do it.

What better example than Gordon Brown wading in to the 2008 Brand-Ross scandal http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/oct/28/gordon-brown-russell-brand-jonathan-ross

So it should be no surprise to see the President of Chile live on Chilean news and around the world tonight as the trapped miners emerge from the subterranean prison after two long and dangerous months.

Neither should the mountain side media center and choreographed celebration shock us, it's a rare chance for the world to see Chile and they deserve a smooth PR operation to facilitate this.

It's not that the Chileans are taking advantage, they are simply following the tried and tested public relations exercises Western governments have used for years; often in cringe-worthy circumstances or in moments of national sorrow such as Tony Blair during the aftermath of Diana's passing.

Only this event is set to be a celebration, the victory of life over certain death. It's also one with huge commercial benefits to Chile as a nation and will see the miners transformed into celebrities, even as I write this.

So don't blame Chile as we lap up the coverage, admire their shrewdness. And let's hope that none of the miners leave a part of themselves when they emerge to deal with what is now a very different world than the one they used to live in.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

David Milliband's procrastination was his downfall - not his brother

So, David Milliband has retreated to the backbenchers and the media are pouring over the 'fratricide' committed by Ed Milliband.

Enough has been written about that to last several months but what I don't understand is why nobody has discussed the fact that David Milliband's chance of power didn't just vanish when the Unions backed his brother; it traces back to 2009 and the resignation of James Purnell http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6434068.ece.

David Milliband and James Purnell were long regarded as the bright young stars of the Labour party and as Gordon Brown's popularity first hit rock bottom, they were regarded by many as rivals for top position http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/plot-to-dump-brown-878260.html

Yet it is clear that the two men wanted to avoid the fate of their predecessors and work together, with David Milliband taking on the roll as party leader and James Purnell presumably promoted to a senior Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet role.

Yet when Purnell resigned to force the deeply unpopular Prime Minister from office, Milliband had his Hamlet moment. Instead of pulling the trigger, he dithered. After a weekend of procrastination, David Milliband chose not to follow his friend and instead offer lukewarm support to the besieged Prime Minister; a trick he repeated in January this year: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23791989-senior-cabinet-ministers-backed-ousting-gordon-brown.do

Perhaps this failure to act has haunted Milliband, who had reportedly discussed bringing Purnell back into the fold should he had become leader http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/185173/Will-James-Purnell-Labour-s-forgotten-man-make-a-comeback-

Yet it's all too late now for the elder Milliband brother. No matter what the commentators say, his brother did win legitimately and David Milliband has probably forever lost his chance at power - unless something extraordinary happens.

So David Milliband must regret his failure to follow James Purnell out and force the leadership contest that would have guaranteed him leadership and potentially the title of Prime Minister - an aspiration now held by his younger brother.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Hyper-local newspapers article in Monocle magazine

I felt I had to draw attention to the fascinating report on the future of hyper-local newspapers in MONOCLE magazine this month http://www.monocle.com/sections/culture/Magazine-Articles/Talk-of-the-town---Global/

Having family in Inverness I was especially interested in the West Highland Free Press case study. The message of the article is clear, at a time when people are abandoning some bigger regional and national newspapers, hyper-local newspapers have the advantage of knowing their readers better than anybody - because they are the readers.

Yet many of these hyper-local newspapers do not carry copy or full copy on their websites, meaning they are distinct from hyper-local websites. That's interesting, as I have spoken before about how great some of the hyper-local websites are, especially for engaging community groups and giving them a voice to replace the content axed from many regional papers.

But if hyper-local newspapers are going to focus away from daily content, they may end up giving more. The MONOCLE article speaks of niches they have developed globally; from 'scoop' specialists in New Zealand, to student orginated newspapers in South Africa. It's local people giving local news without joining the daily copy arms race faced by regional papers. It's almost as if these hyper-local papers don't feel the pressure and they are liberated by it.

Life is local, and we'd all better get used to it. What a great article, go and give it a read.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Pope visits Britain

Did anyone watch the Pope in 3D today? HD? It's amazing isn't it, to be able to watch the first papal visit to Britain since 1982 in such resplendent colour, such crisp images. I had to go to the lavatory a few times, but luckily I was able to pause the Pope on my Sky+ and come back.

The Popemobile as well, did you see it? Made the batmobile look like a shed on wheels. I hear Mercedes made it specially, where can you get one? Now that IS a company car.

Wall to wall Pope TV coverage, brand recongition, this is truly great PR, he is just unlucky he missed ultimate Big Brother by a week.

Can you imagine the Holy See and Davina, 'I'm coming to get you!' - TV gold.

So well done, your Holiness, you have turned this secular world on its head. You've rebuilt the trust in the Church with some old fashioned PR and a great set of wheels.

Who said Britain was devoured by secularism?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Sunday Mirror to run 'Wayne Rooney 'vice girl' exclusive'?

Rumours have it on Twitter that the Sunday Mirror is running a new story on Wayne Rooney regarding a 'vice girl'.

What this means for one of Britian's most lucrative brands, we will have to wait and see. (Personally, I think it means the Labour Leadership battle is again off the front pages and you'll find candidates cursing the rumours as we speak!)

Seriously though, the response from the Rooney camp to the rumours - as that's all they are as I write this - will be interesting as Steven Gerrard was recently forced to issue a public statement in the face of similar rumours.

But do the public still have an appetite for these stories? I'm afraid so, sad as it may be - Sunday Mirror sales will already jump on the back of Twitter buzz.

Friday, 3 September 2010

My drum article on social media

Sorry for a self promoting post, but here's an article I have written in The Drum on Social Media - give it a gander and see if you agree...


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The death of AVE can't come soon enough

I was talking to a friend recently who asked me what I do. It's the sort of conversation that makes a PRO shudder as it inevitably leads to a blank face and a 'what does that mean again' supplementary. Eventually I explained how I look after organisations' reputations and their conversations with key audiences. It almost made me feel proud! Then, of course, my friend asked 'how do you measure success?' Simple, we just work out what they would have paid for another marketing discipline and gloat about how cheap we are...

It's the sort of conversation that lurks in the room every time a PR agency pitches to a new client. We all talk a good game on evaluation but ultimately the industry lacks the conviction to stand up for itself.

So here's the truth - AVE/PRVE are inconsequential numbers which bear no impact on reputation or the emotional connection an audience has with an organisation. 

And industry bodies continue to let us down. The seven key principles recently agreed at Barcelona's European Summit on Measurement may have pledged to remove AVE but did they come up with a better solution? No, it was yet more hot air and procrastination.

AVE is unreliable as it concerns one discipline and uses it to evaluate another. Advertisers don't compare their work to PR, so why do we evaluate ours on theirs?

Public relations is one of the most criticised and misunderstood of all marketing disciplines. It is seen as a cheap win, a dark art, all fluff and no substance. This does the thousands of intelligent and creative practitioners in this country a huge disservice; yet until we can show the effectiveness of our work and how it can impact on an organisation, we will always have one foot in the mud.

My own view is that no PR campaign should commence without some prior research into reputation. There are many important models to make this evaluation, I won't go into it here.

Then, once you have this starting point you need to clearly define a set of goals. How do you want your audience to see your brand or organisation? What behaviour do you wish to change and over what period of time do you wish to do this?

Evaluating the impact of the campaign must then be measured against this test group of results, to derive impact. The impact on bottom line will of course always play a part but PR shouldn't be isolated from claiming the credit for this, as so often happens.

I know many people will argue that most organisations won't want to pay for this level of research but I think that if you are going to pay for expertise, pay for it to be used properly.

Until the industry moves more quickly to educate clients and boards on the true value of PR then we can continue to deceive ourselves and ensure awkward conversations on what the profession stands for will continue for a long time. 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

David Cameron in Manchester - review

It was at the point of my fifth security check when it dawned on me just how important David Cameron had now become. He is Prime Minister. It's not the 'Dave and Nick' show, it is Dave and the gang. This recess sees the man formerly known as 'call me Dave' leave his marriage of convenience and carry on his 'Cameron Direct' tour of the provinces. Although it is now called 'PM Direct'.

I have noticed that Dave rarely wears a jacket on these occasions and so it was today in Manchester. The slight hint of man breast poking through his shirt might well force his hand in this respect, but alas that isn't content suitable for this blog.

Manchester is a diverse city and, as if by magic, the audience directly behind Dave was as diverse as they come. It was a game of ethnic equality bingo and Dave had a full house.

The audience themselves were rather quiet. Is this really the Manchester of the industrial revolution, the birthplace of Brit Pop and other short lived successes? Perhaps it was a quiet respect for the man taking money from us, after all, it is for our own good.

The range on the audience was like Tiger Woods, post affair. Benefits, cuts, green energy, Sure Start, it was like being ankle deep in the sea without your trunks - there just wasn't enough depth in the room to go further.

This of course suited Dave. He listened, he answered a completely different question and he moved on before people could follow up or think about his answers. But this isn't Dave's fault, blame those 'assistants' he referred to - he'd loved to have talked all day if he could. To us, not with us, I presumed.

Cameron Direct is all rather pointless in the end but he did get out of the 'Westminster bubble', so that is to be applauded. And, let's be frank here, he is insane to do them at all. Hopefully, Andy Coulson can have a word and return to PMs seen on the TV but not heard locally. That's the good old days; where's Mandy when you need him?

Oh, he was at Smith's in Manchester - don't think there was a queue.

Monday, 26 July 2010

How do you solve a problem like Vince?

"Brokeback Coalition" was a crude and rather flippant put down *allegedly* by David Davis but it was just the latest in a long line of snide remarks from alienated grassroots members of both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg's senior teams are undoubtedly prepared for these attacks and have so far adopted consistent rebuttals without appearing to worry about them.

What the coalition aren't prepared for at this early stage is off message briefings from the front line. This is exactly what has started to happen with the Lib Dems though whose Ministers seem to be unable to turn down the chance to speak into a microphone without considering the implications first.

From Clegg's attack on Jack Straw at PMQs to Lynne Featherstone's rantings over woman's breasts, the party seems incapable of learning from David Laws' early blunder.

All these issues pale into comparison when compared to Vince Cable.

Vince Cable, the man who could do no wrong is no Vince the feeble, a man choking on his famous 'Mr Bean' criticism of Gordon Brown.

From graduate tax to bank lending (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/7909709/Banks-told-lend-more-or-lose-bonuses.html) Vince is ploughing his own field, the anguish of compromise written all over his face.

This compromise is undermining the coalition's fiscal credibility at a crucial time for the economy. There is no time to play the hard done man, Cable must commit himself to the work of government and designate more briefings or Osborne and Cameron must remove him.

With every mixed message the dissenting party voices will grow bolder. The PM needs to find out if Cable can truly commit to the work ahead and if not he simply must remove him from office before Christmas.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

South Africa can look to the World Cup final after successful PR operation - but what next?

Sunday will see a new name on the World Cup as Spain and Holland battle it out but for the host nation, the Public Relations team can breathe a sigh of relief.

A tournament marked by pre-event mutterings of discontent from the Western media didn't get off to the best of starts with steward strikes, as locals saw the opportunity to improve working conditions with a well timed strike: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=660956&cc=5739

Some swift action by the government put the strike down and out of the news agenda and since then most of the media coverage has been focused on the football taking place.

In this respect, South African officials must be relieved. Yet this campaign will be judged by the long term economic impact on the country and no matter how much officials look to control the flow of information the world will expect results.

It seems, however, that the world should not hold its breathe. Only recently a major pay strike amongst construction workers was avoided that could have jeopardised the World Cup final (http://www.mmegi.bw/index.php?sid=9&aid=3476&dir=2010/July/Thursday8) and this adds to the sense that once the TV cameras have stopped rolling, the money in the local economy will leave with them.

This is why it is so important to return to South Africa, to find out exactly how the country has developed. From their perspective, they must be open and proactive in giving the world's media the examples of development and increased local prosperity which can drive the legacy of the tournament.

Whether or not these examples exist, we shall see.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

BP oil slick shows reputation cannot be driven without action

Ever since the explosion off the Gulf of Mexico, BP has been in a 24/7 battle to rescue its reputation in the wake of an environmental disaster the President of the United States has compared to 9/11.

The BP Chief, Tony Hayward, has famously made several high profile PR gaffes - the most recent visiting a yacht race off the Isle of Wight this week days after a poor performance in front of the Senate http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7840720/US-anger-as-BP-oil-spill-chief-Tony-Hayward-watches-his-yacht-sail-round-the-Isle-of-Wight.html

Despite this, BP are of course no fools when it comes to PR. Of course they aren't. The company has employed a rapid response unit to deal with the constant flow of criticism (excuse the pun) and some of this has been successful - the purchase of Google adwords such as 'oil slick' for example - and the use of video and social media shows the company is using every modern method to try and repair the damage.

So why does the negative PR persist to the extent it does? Firstly, the fact is reputation must be built on actions and trust and until the spill is stopped, BP is always going to be on the back foot. That rule applies to any organisation in the world.

The next problem is that BP seems to be trying to control the messaging, rather than enter in a true dialogue. Web 2.0 techniques falter when used outside a conversation prism, they simply don't work when a business isn't prepared to listen.

So with every Twitter parody forced to admit it isn't part of BP, for every protest video pulled, BP gives the impression that it is trying to silence freedom of speech; thus alienating the local communities affected by the spill, not mentioning the US political elite.

To turn  the situation around the company needs to start listening more and talking less. Mr Hayward simply must use any upcoming appearances to reflect a humility, a sorrow, an empathy with local communities - not just the President.

Most of all, it needs to stop the spill before attempting to turn the tide of publicity, more 'Mea culpa' and less 'it's not me, bruv'.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Times Paywall

I've been exploring the preview of The Times paywall. A few things have stood out for me.

1. The Times are attempting a 'news plus' model - it isn't trying to sell articles you can get elsewhere for free, it is attempting to sell bespoke digital content

2. It is an extension of the Times membership card scheme and therefore giving readers a feeling of inclusion, and belonging

3. Interactivity will be king. Blogs, discussions, comments are in

4. The use of embedded videos and multimedia galleries will be frequent but will carry a much more artistic feel

5. The Times will attempt to carry the following for their star writers behind the paywall, such as Mike Atherton in sport

Overall, I would be willing to extend my membership when the final  paywall comes down if I can be sure I'm getting fresh, thought provoking content that will allow me to join discussion and debate.

My next question is how this could provide opportunity or threat for PRs? The first points I would make is that it can allow for truly exclusive opportunities.

For example, my brother is an artist and if he could secure an exclusive preview for his shows with The Times then the power of that would be in reaching a niche audience of bespoke minds. For businesses, the editorial team will surely be looking for interviews and opportunities with CEOs that can remain within the paywall and I imagine there will be many businesses happy to discuss this with them.

In terms of marketing creativity, the paywall may also offer a full marketing solution for businesses as the Times will be able to offer data on readers which can in its own way prove as equally as attractive of some of the information sold by social networking sites such as Facebook.

So, interesting times ahead. I'll be looking to refresh my views when the new paywall is up and running properly.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Millibands in Labour leadership battle

The Labour Leadership battle sees the candidates with a unique chance to build relationships with party members using the internet in a way never before possible. David and Ed Milliband are both Twitter users and must engage and invite debate with members in frsh and exciting ways - especially if they are to gain ground over the Union favourite, Ed Balls.

David has a new holding page for his campaign - http://www.davidmiliband.net/ and I imagine he will look to build in some web 2.0 technology in order to promote himself as 'accessible to the people'.

The coalition Government is going to remain top of the news agenda for a long time, so Labour candidates must take their time and use web engagement with Labour members and ordinary voters to build a campaign narrative.

If they are able to do this or not will determine whether or not the former Government can be an effective opposition.

I personally think Ed and David should team up for a 'dream ticket' with David at the head - but that might be some way down the line.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

When Cameron met Clegg

The UK now has the most uncertain political climate for decades, as the Conservatives and the Lib Dems continue discussions over a coalition that would see David Cameron enter Number 10 and oust the stubborn Gordon Brown from his role as PM.

Look out for the language coming from both parties, who need to show willing yet ensure party members do not feel their core values are compromised.

For Nick Clegg, he knows he must represent the Statesman, transcending his party's dismal election performance and cementing his place as King-maker supreme.

His statement yesterday was that of a mini manifesto, clearly showing the electorate that the Lib Dems are focused and can be trusted to deliver 'change':

"I'm very keen that the Liberal Democrats should play a constructive role at a time of great economic uncertainty to provide a good government that this country deserves.
"Throughout that we will continue to be guided by the big changes we want - tax reform, improving education for all children, sorting out the banks and building a new economy from the rubble of the old, and extensive fundamental political reform."
The Tories on the other hand must shake hands in public but be careful not to make any public promises to Clegg. This morning. Michael Gove talked about the 'spirit of cooperation' but fell short of promising Cabinet positions for Lib Dems.
It is crucial that Clegg doesn't over reach himself and demand stipulations that will be rejected - his position in the media is stronger than his political bargaining position, despite the Tory desire for a majority.
Cameron must ensure he comes across as a leader, the man who brings the situation to conclusion - not Nick Clegg. By showing strength Cameron can reassure the frail markets and Tory backers, nervous after a disaster of a campaign which failed to secure a majority against one of the most unpopular PMs in many years.
Over the next few days, every statement uttered by Cameron and Clegg will be laced with the language of negotiation, every word filled with subliminal messages to their own parties. 
Language will rarely have been so crucial to either man.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Swing to Tories

As I type there are reports of a 8-9% Tory swing in some key seats such as Kingswood and Basildon South.

This would give Cameron a majority, if replicated across the Country...

Let's see how this plays out.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

General Election Exit Poll Results

The one thing about this campaign that has stood out has been the unreliability of polls, especially the You Gov polls, yet the media have continued to push them in order to keep the election fire buring and satisfy the 24 hr coverage. Which is fair enough.

Exit polls are even more unreliable, however, and it will be interesting to see how honest voters are tomorrow after they cast their vote.

If this Populus poll is accurate then the exit polls may tell us that the Tories are on the brink of a majority: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7117385.ece

For my money, the hung parliament is still the most likely outcome but I think that the Lib Dems will fail to make the impact many have predicted.

Bring on tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Gordon Brown gaffe: calls old lady a bigot

Gordon Brown has committed the first big leaders' gaffe - calling an old lady a "bigot".

This one will run all day but the choice Labour spin doctors must now make is whether to apologise and apologise again; or try and hang the old lady out to dry; portraying Gordon as a sort of racial equality champion.

Either options spells trouble - Gordon Brown will lose further ground in the polls because of this.

Disaster for Labour.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Election media special: Sophy Ridge, Consumer and Political Correspondent, News of the World

The 2010 General Election has so far stood out for its 24/7 digital media coverage. To find out more, I have spoken to Sophy Ridge, Consumer and Political Correspondent with the News of the World, to find out how the News of the World is using social media to engage its readers in the 2010 General Election. Here's what Sophy had to say:

Q) The News of the World election Blog is noticeable for its social media integration. 

It seems to be designed to make the election accessible to the voter. Can you tell me a bit more about the decision to cover the election in this way?

People are engaging with politics on many different platforms – whether that’s via Twitter, Facebook, internet blogs or TV debates. We wanted to reach out to a whole different section of politically-active people who may not read newspapers but are still switched on and want to find out more about the election. By linking our coverage on Twitter, Facebook and the News of the World blog – as well as our newspaper coverage – we’re maximising the number of people reading our content. Plus I personally am very excited with the way social media has changed the way people interact with politicians and journalists.

Q) The Mums’ Manifesto is obviously right at the heart of the election campaign. Why has Netmums become so important to politicians?

Every year there is a group of voters identified as the “Holy Grail” who will decide the outcome of the election – whether Mondeo Man or Worcester Woman. This year politicians are scrambling to attract the votes of Britain’s mothers.
They’re the ones who have really felt the brunt of the credit crunch – whether it’s rocketing petrol and supermarket bills or the devastated job market – and they’ve also got big views on things like class sizes.


Q) Have you found the Mums to be a tough sell for the politicians? 

 I think politicians often see “mums” in quite a patronising way. Many of them underestimate what Netmums will quiz them about in these webchats – they think it’s all going to be about soft subjects. But actually Netmums members are experts in the complicated benefits system because they are the ones who are pouring over the intricacies of everything from tax credits to the Tory marriage plans – because an extra £40 a month means a lot to how they juggle their bills. So they are an incredibly tough sell and it’s impossible for politicians to pull the wool over their eyes.

Q) You’ve been on the road producing video diaries for Facebook on the campaign. http://blogs.notw.co.uk/politics/2010/04/battleground-britain-video-reports-from-around-the-uk.html
Who, at this stage, has impressed you the most and why?

I think it’s important to stay neutral as a journalist. But as a newspaper, we have decided to back the Tories.

Q) Do you think the TV debates will tell voters anything new?

The important of the TV debates has already been demonstrated –the Lib Dems have taken the lead in the polls for the first time in a century! Everyone thought the TV debates would have some influence, but I don’t think anyone realised quite how much. However, Thursday’s debate could change all that because this time David Cameron and Gordon Brown will be gunning for Nick Clegg. He had an easy ride last time.

Q) Finally, what reaction has the News of the World had to its interactive election coverage? Have your readers responded well? 

Our readers have responded incredibly positively to our interactive coverage. However – best of all – many other people have started engaging with the News of the World’s coverage for the first time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Twitter and the Leaders' debate

Well, the first Leaders' debate was spellbinding television, a true moment of history. I had the pleasure of spending it with hundreds of people from all sides of the political spectrum on Twitter.

Apparently there were over 100,000 tweets during the debate and this is evidence that for real time media, Twitter is King.

Tweets seemed to verge between the comic and the serious, most people on my feed approaching the debate with a cynical eye on how staged managed it was but, crucially, the response was that the debate was a success.

It's best out of three so no winner, but as this stage (out of 5) I would give: Clegg 3.5, Brown 3 and Cameron 3. All to play for.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

50 economists sign letter backing Gordon Brown's economic plans

Apparently 50 economists have signed a letter backing Labour's plans for the economy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7591279/General-Election-2010-Gordon-Brown-finally-finds-experts-to-back-economic-plans.html

This tat for tat game of 'my expert is bigger than yours' is getting rather tiresome. I wonder what impact, if any, it is having on voters?

My guess is they care more about their own family finances and unless politicans can find a way of demonstrating how their policies can ease some of this financial strain, then the game of economic tennis will prove fruitless in the long term context of the election.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Financial Times stikes deal with Foursquare

This week saw the FT strike a deal with Foursquare to allow people to check in and unlock its pay wall


For me, this shows how it's not just brands who needs to find a way of operating within exisitng social media platforms, it's the media too.

Although all the major media have a presense on the leading platforms, very few have matched brands in finding innovative ways to engage potential readers (and therefore customers) in the way brands have.

I think media marketing teaams have been lazy in this respect.

If you are the Times, about to get a shiny new paywall, your social media strategy must be geared towards increasing entry into your paywall and boosting revenue streams.

Simply being on Facebook, or having a Twitter feed, isn't enough to deliver new, unique  and paying users; and by new I mean online consumers who would otherwise not think of visitng a website.

By looking to creative partnerships with social media platforms - and even brands - British media can get away from the 'free DVD on Sunday' approach and seek to engage consumers in the same way as the biggest brands have done successfully.

So, well done, FT. Let's see some more of this type of innovation.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

General Election 2010 and the Media

We are nearly a week in so I've decided to do a synopsis of some of the main GE2010 coverage to date, and where I think the most innovative journalism is happening.

The much maligned BBC website continues to strike fear into the heart of newspapers everywhere with a dedicated GE2010 micro site, complete with up to date, minute by minute news feed incorporating tweets. This is a strong addition to the BBC's already excellent blogs, with Nick Robinson and the team blogging with the gusto of a Government in Waiting. Verdict: Excellent start for the Beeb BUT they must not drop the ball with the leaders' debates.

Sky News
Sky has gone for strength in numbers, utilising their large budgets for live camera pieces throughout the day with heavyweights Adam Boulton and Kay Burley working almost 24/7 it would seem. The production is slick but the coverage is, in my opinion, let down by the sensationalism - the yellow 'breaking news' bar is at time cringe worthy. Unlike the BBC and ITV, SKY News has nothing to lose with the leaders' debates and I expect it the production to be the slickest and most American in style.

The third channel on the remote has struggled to keep pace with the social media integration of BBC and Sky and isn’t leading on many stories at present. The news team needs a big exclusive from the election soon to make up ground.

News International (minus Sky)
The Times has produced the solid coverage you would expect of it but the website remains in a league behind the Telegraph and Guardian. The Sun has already taken the scalp of one Scottish Labour candidate and led the debate on the use of Twitter by politicians. News of the World has produced an excellent series of Facebook videos and a dedicated NOTW GE2010 Facebook fan page. This is making politics more accessible to young voters and the videos are updated on a constant basis. Along with the aforementioned SKY production, there is no arguing with James Murdoch's focus on this election.

The Guardian
Highlight has been the balance of opinion and commentary, emphasised by the excellent GE2010 pull out on the first day of the official campaign. Website combines humour and commentary well and the grand old paper will continue to balance the right wing views of the Mail and company.
The Mail
Middle England's voice has backed Cameron's moves on National Insurance and Marriage Tax Breaks but has also focused on the micro battles of local councils - mainly as a vehicle to discuss the worries of the large swing vote outside London. Within this, they have already launched campaigns on the usual grounds of immigration and expect more of the same from the Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/election/article-1264966/Migrant-citys-help-Anguished-letter-Brown-Cameron-reveals-devastating-toll-immigration.html

Up there with the Guardian for social media and website content, the Telegraph has succeeded with some great blogs from Charles Moore and Robert Moore amongst others. Strongest business coverage outside the FT.

Twitter has been electric since the start of the campaign, fed by the Tory masters Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie. Their battle against the many Labour MPs and candidates has been fierce and no holds barred - witness the Labour campaign to #sackgrayling and the sacking of the Scottish Labour candidate who proved too many tweets do make a...

Some excellent tweets and blogs from Paul Waugh have seen the ever improving new look Evening Standard cement its place alongside the nationals. Guido Fawkes has been a consistent thorn in Labour's side - as you would expect. The John Prescott team have taken his traditional battle bus tour and combined it well with social media, epitomised by some very funny tweets and coverage from Aintree racecourse.

This isn't an exhaustive audit but it's clear that the media have embraced the challenge of the 'digital election' and are providing voters with a veritable feast of political news and opinion.

For me, the biggest challenges will now come with the next unknown area and that is, of course, the three leaders' debates on BBC, ITV and Sky. Worries over format and scripts have been voiced and if they are not addressed, the shouts of #stagemangedelection could become louder and cause problems for all three main parties in the latter weeks of the election.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Darling must continue to stand firm over NI


The Chancellor has shown impressive resilience over the past 10 days as business leaders, trade unions, journalists and economists have attacked his plan to increase NI contributions for employers and employees alike.

The Government messaging over this period has been consistent; despite the pressure he (Darling) must be under to give the public a carrot to accompany this stick.

When any organisation decides to make a change which could have a negative effect on some of its audiences, it is of vital importance that decisions are made and stuck to. Only then can the conviction behind the messaging penetrate a hostile debate.

In politics, however, it is often all to easy to flip-flop and backtrack. The public are wary of New Labour especially for this - characterised in the genius first episode of The Thick of It.

So, as sceptical voters look for truth behind the spin can the Chancellor's resilience appeal more to voters searching for honest decisions on reducing deficits, than even respected businessmen like Sir Stuart Rose?

If I were the opposition parties I would carefully look at how voters react to the brickbats heading Mr Darling's way as the public are proving difficult to predict in this, the recession election - hence the ever changing polls, as reliable as a builder's free estimate.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Gordon Brown tries to win over women

The Prime Minister was the latest party leader on Woman's Hour today (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/), the latest in a series of attempt by the main parties to sway the female vote.

Swing seats can often hinge on the female vote and the narrowing of the polls is evidence that votes are there to be won.

The key figures have become 'Sam Cam' and Sarah Brown, who have been brought to the fore to soften the campaign and create (in the case of Samantha) a softer element to the party.

It's been a similar story digitally with Netmums given a political prominence it can (probably) scarcely believe.

So how is this phase of the election panning out? Not very well in my eyes. None of the politicans have shown any true connect with the audience and it comes across as rather tokenistic as a result.

Samantha and Sarah's roles are also the subject of hyperbole and although Sarah is a savvy PR operator and emerging digital presence, she has yet to prove that she is able to work her skills on her husband.

I think that this is an experimental phase of the campaign and predict we will see much more negative campaigning before too long as the Conservatives look to go on the offensive.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

BBC cuts should not halt diversifcation of content


Today's BBC cuts, ironically leaked last week in The Times, are remarkable only in that the Corporation has chosen some of its lowest audience but most diverse areas to close.

The Asian network, BBC Switch and 6 music all arguably dared to try something different. The lesson it seems, is that whilst the BBC may want to stop its expansion, it doesn't want to lose its audience share.

That is the dicotomy of a tax payer funded public service broadcaster in 2010 and that's why the licence fee can't survive forever.

It will, however, increase the pressure to restrict BBC online content further and thus open up the competition in the market. This can only be good for a pluralistic democracy but only if other media outlets can finally adapt to a new media age and offer the sort of online content people will be willing to pay for.

The BBC didn't force the rest of the media to fail so miserably at this and it didn't force them to give away their content for free.

Let's see if the BBC backing down (or at least starting to) will signal the beginning of a media resurgence starting with successful pay walls...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

There are no PR winners in the Gordon Brown Bullying row

I thought I would share my thoughts on who is winning the media battle over the current Number 10 'bullying' row.

There are currently two sides to the argument.

One, Gordon Brown is a 'bully':


Two, the Head of the National Bullying Helpline is a  'Tory pawn' and a 'prat':

This whole ugly mess epitomises the very reason the public are fed up with spin, unfounded allegations and UK politics. The media are also to blame for leading on gossip, non-stories and hearsay; rather than facts and evidence.

From a PR perspective neither party wins as no one is improving their image with voters over this row. Constituents have jobs in which they see this sort of stress and intimidation every day, frankly there is little traction in the debate for either party.

Again, the coverage will leave yet another PR scapegoat in Christine Pratt - although appointing Max Clifford suggests this is more of a 'phone and tell' rather than 'good woman, done-bad' hard luck story:


Again, making this news public is a PR disaster for the Charity which must surely now undergo crisis comms to avoid imploding.

So with the Government, Opposition and a major charity all failing to secure positive coverage, who are the winners from this row?

The answer is nobody, bar Andrew Lawnsley who will no doubt sell some more copies of is book...nice work, Andrew!

I just wish politicians would wake up and realise that politics needs high quality debate right now and this whole story is a nonsense, "The Thick of It" style mess which adds no credence to any party.

P.S. Could it just be a coincedence that this story is keeping the Falklands row out of the main headlines? Perhaps it isn't as silly as it seems...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Microsoft and Yahoo search merger approved


The European Commission has approved the merger of Microsoft and Yahoo's search engines, with Bing now set to power Yahoo search.

Although this is a step in the right direction for Microsoft, they aren't the ones Google is concerned with anymore - that is Facebook.

With Google Buzz and Wave now launched and last year's Facebook acquisiton of FriendFeed (http://blog.friendfeed.com/2009/08/friendfeed-accepts-facebook-friend.html) these two giants are set for a titanic battle in 2010 as they fight for dominence over the updatesphere.

(Twitter of course continues to grow but they are arguably more likely to be acquired than join the arms race in the way the other two have).

In terms of where this leaves Microsoft, they need to ensure their investment in Bing doesn't fail and they need to address the impact mobile technology has on the once untouchable Windows.

Saying that, I'm not a tech expert so I'd love to hear from those in the know on who you think is set to triumph...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Toyota uses Digg to save its reputation

Toyota is attempting to salvage its reputation with customers by using the social media site Digg to discuss the faulty accelerator crisis directly with customers.

This is a last throw of the dice for a company which has seen the news agenda intensify and a feeding frenzy of bad press take huge chunks out of their long standing reputation for consumer confidence.

Some may point out that opening up to social media could expose the company to even more horror stories and negative questioning but what it gives the company is the chance to be transparent - and that speaks volumes.

There's a reason why business leaders like Andy Bond of Asda are obessed with transparency. It says 'we have nothing to hide' and it allows organisations the opportunity to open a direct conversations with their publics.

Social media offers this opportunity in abudence and will allow Toyota to ensure their positive messages move up the google rankings - crucial when worried consumers turn to the internet with their worries.

Time will tell if Toyota can Digg its way out of the biggest crisis in its history but as a strategy 'going social' is the correct move.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

How to improve the inconvenient PR truth campaign

Real Wire have reacted to the intense recent debate over PR spam by setting up their own campaign to give journalists a 'bill of rights' when dealing with PRs:


In terms of being an effective tool for focusing the debate and looking for a conclusion, I think the campaign is a powerful one. I do not, however, believe it gets to the root of the problem - the lack of personal training for junior PROs and the use of crude evaluation processes like AVE which force desperate PRs to mass mail journalists in the hope of getting their figures up.

Here's my three-step theory on how to help solve the situation:

1) As I said on Charles Arthur's blog recently (http://www.charlesarthur.com/blog/?comments_popup=1123), the CIPR and/or PRCA need to talk to the NUJ and agree on a code of practice which can be integrated into official CIPR and PRCA training courses. This can help reach grassroots PROs and will lead directly to the agencies responsible for the 'spamming' in the first place.

2) PROs need to be stronger with their clients. AVEs, number of cuttings - this leads to a shoot from the hip, rushed approach to comms and leaves no time to build quality campaigns and relationships with the media. Change needs to come from the top, and this will filter down and mean the poor junior execs won't have to sweat about achieving x amount of 'hits' for a stagnant press release.

3) Gorkana and the other media databases need to provide more detailed information and links to journalists' own websites, to help time poor PRs by pointing them in the direction of proper research rather than a rushed 'easy win'. Note I said point them in the direction of research, not do it for them. They could even remove the mail merge feature and there should be a note before the 'send' button is pressed - ARE YOU SURE THE CONTACTS ON THIS LIST ARE RELEVANT?

There you go, three steps which in my opinion will help more than giving journalists 'rights'.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Confused.com - Accident Avenue


Every now and again a PR campaign makes you sit back and applaud.

@CakeGroup have delivered such a campaign for Confused.com with 'Accident Avenue', Britian's most accident prone street covered in bubble wrap!

Not only is this a creative masterpiece from the Euro RSCG owned company but the follow up is a work of genius - the bubble wrap is being donated to Oxfam to help send aid to Haiti.

Congratulations to Cake and Kelly Davies the Confused PR Manager.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bob Ainsworth leaks election date of 6 May


The Times, quite rightly, points out the latest Ministerial 'leak' of a May 6th date for the General Election is so clumsy it must be an attempt to throw the Conservatives off the trail.

Bob Ainsworth is now the third Minister to give us all an 'insight' into the mind of Gordo and it is quite clear this is an awkward attempt to try and get the Tories to blow some of their considerable bank balance on preparing for a false date.

To be honest, the date isn't crucial as there's only a small window of time when it's likely to be called. Of more concern was today's report in the same article that Gordon Brown wants a leaders' debate audience to be comprised of 2-1 in favour of Labour and that David Cameron wants no questions from the audience!

If these men want our votes then they should be prepared for anything and let the public have their say in a 'Question Time' style debate.

Surely they should relish this opportunity and not try and make life easy for themselves? As Alan Partridge said, "this country"!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Who will be the British Obama?

I've been inspired by Paul Armstrong's blog (http://community.prweek.com/blogs/firehose/archive/2010/01/14/5-tips-for-the-labour-party-and-conservatives.aspx) to keep a regular watch on which British political figures will take the 'Obama' crown for best digital election campaign.

Please feel free to share links and best practice. And I'll be looking for truly innovative campaigning so that rules out Web Cameron...

Here's a good article from The Guardian on the subject from a few weeks ago - well worth a read:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/03/labour-tory-internet-campaigns

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Alastair Campbell tweets during Iraq inquiry


Today's appearance by @campbellclaret in front of the Iraq inquiry drew a predictable deluge of media coverage.

During the day Mr Campbell tweeted just 4 times - and only 3 of the Tweets were related to the Inquiry.

This was a master stroke, reflecting the sense that Campbell took the Inquiry serious enough to focus but allowing him to make a swift rebuttal to the media before the next day's print.

Contrast these two examples:



The Times leads on the Blair letters to Bush, suggesting this is new information. Campbell is able to correct this with one Tweet, which ensures his message has been heard by thousands who would otherwise only read the media version of the story.

(Incidentally, if you look from page 600+ of 'the Blair years'  you will find that Alastair Campbell is correct in that the letters are not a new story).

This is a perfect example of how the story has moved on before the print versions of the papers have even arrived through the letterbox.

The second insight was the sheer number of vitriolic Tweets from journalists attempting to pour scorn on Campbell. It revealed the vendetta behind the headlines and acts as an ironic counter-weight to the 'spin' the journalists were so against.

I won't name names here, if you follow today's feed you will see it for yourself.

So thank you Twitter, again you have made the news more real and more immediate than even the live BBC news feed - after all, that was delayed by one minute.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

New Sun poll suggests ditching Brown won't sway voters


Sky News is one of many outlets running today's Sun sponsored poll in which 58% of respondents said a new Labour leader wouldn't affect their vote.

Polls are unreliable but I give this one credence as this close to an election, it is policy which should be important, not personality politics.

(Ironic isn't it that Labour Ministers have spent the past 2 years accusing Cameron of being personality before policy yet here we are months away from an election and it's Labour attempting a cosmetic makeover.)

So which policy areas will become the real election battleground when the dust settles? Here's five to look out for during the election cold war over the coming weeks:

1) Foreign policy: Will Dave or Gordo risk an attempt to bridge the icy divide to Obama?

2) Public sector spending: voters want to know which cuts they can expect but they also want assurances over frontline services - trust lies with neither party.

3) Education: How will the parties stop a generation of wasted school leavers ending up on the recession scrap heap? Parents will want to hear assurances.

4) Law and order: Dealing with the escalating anti-social behaviour and youth crime in our biggest cities - especially knife crime. So far Britian is failing and this is reflected in tragedy.

5) Immigration: the far right will play this card locally, yet Labour and Conservatives seem to underestimate the impact their lack of clarity on the issue can have in marginal seats.

Out of the five highlighted areas, I'd say the two main parties could each hope to make ground in each area, as neither has demonstrated a winning rhetorical hand. It will be interesting to see if Tory Spring conference brings any new commitments from 'Dave' whilst Brown will need to hope his 'business as usual' mantra actually brings him some results.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Hewitt and Hoon Coup

Let me be cruel, not unnatural;

I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (Hamlet, Act III, scene ii).

Today's attempt by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt to force a secret ballot on the Labour Party leadership was not only unconstitutional within the Labour Party, it signified the tragic third act of the coup that never was.

Since the death of the Prince of Downing Street, Anthony Blair, Hamlet has procrastinated over taking vengeance on the King, Gordon Brown.

They've even had visions of John Hutton but alas inactivity still speaks loudest.

This whole wretched play will become political folklore but the question may always remain - who is Hamlet?

The answer lies in the above quote, I will speak daggers to her but use none.

Todays coup was nothing more than a play, an act by mechanicals to serve the whims of a Cabinet frozen by their collective failure.

Just like in the movie, Spartacus, each Cabinet member should rise and say: I am Hamlet.

For Milliband, Straw, Harman, Johnson and the other Cabinet would-be plotters know the old King cannot hold on to his throne but they have been unable to act.

The result is that for all their work over the past 12 years, they will be forever remembered as being the lame duck Cabinet that allowed the Tories to return to power and didn't have the guts to do what was neccessary.

As Shakespeare said,

The rest is silence.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A New Year message

Happy New Year!

2010 has the potential to start the new decade off in truly game changing style. The highlights for me will be:

- Will we see a much-feared 'double dip' recession?

- Can Gordon Brown make the most unlikely political comeback of all time?

- Will Barack Obama emerge as the great leader the world hopes?

- Is it possible for the Western allies to succeed in the Middle East?

- Who will win the World Cup?!

So, have a great 2010 and let's see how it unfolds!