In Part One I looked at the developing stories from June 23rd 2016, the date of the European Referendum in the UK. To deal with the next part of the story, I have to go back to February, to the start of the months of national campaigning.
For the last four weeks [Tuesday June 21- July 19] the political news in the UK has been changing so quickly that drafts of an unpublished post became outdated at least four times. Publication was then hindered for technical reasons. I have attempted to make some retrspective sense out of my unposted notes
June 23rd 2016. After a fractious period of debate, the voters of Great Britain head for the ballot boxes. Some for various reasons have already recorded a postal vote
Chosen from the eight candidates battling for votes in the ITV referendum debates
The debates were two hours long with a similar format. The leaders had a brief chance to outline positions, then faced well-thought out questions from what appeared to be audiences representing the main demographics (gender, and political persuasion were particularly well balanced).
The moderator Mary Nightingale would have been a strong contender, managing as well as any to have ‘control over the borders’ of time permitted to the panellists obviously not used to such a treatment. (I was reminded of the approach of the horse whisperer Monty Roberts, which has a well-constructed but unobtrusive approach to keeping critters moving where he would like them to go).
How to rate the leaders
I decided on a context-specific rating approach as found in such reputable scientific journals as Which, Ryan’s Air best deals, Delia’s dozen best flans, Celebrity hottest oboists.
Three factors of performance
After some thought I decided that the key measure of the leadership performance was on the influence or impact achieved by the performance on three groups of votes.
IOU: Impact on undecided (to swing to his or her side or the other side)
IOS: Impact on supporters (to stay as supporters, become unsettled, or switch)
IOO: Impact on opponents (to stay, become unsettled or switch)
Given time and a research budget I would arrive at a reasonable set of scales for each of these three factors. As I have neither, I resorted to another approach sometimes known as first impressions to help me fill in the matrix.
I read as many articles as I could find about the two debates may have been influenced by them, or (more likely) my own bias which is more strongly towards remain than it is towards the politicians and their advocacy of their cause.
|Candidate||Impact on undecided voters||Impact on supporting voters||Impact on opposing voters||Notes|
|Cameron||4-5||5-6||3-4||12-15 Same old same old|
|Farage||2-3||7-8||2-3||11-13 Same old same old|
|Johnson||4||5||4||13 Needed plan B|
|Stuart||5||6||4||15 Bit bland|
|Leadsom||5-6||4-5||4-5||13-16 OK but forgettable|
|Sturgeon||6-7||6||3-4||15-17 Most authoritative|
What if anything does all this mean?
It’s just one of the thousands of ways you can set up your own thought engine, to help you get underneath the surface of arguments. These matrix methods do not give answers so much as suggest new possibilities.
My interpretation of the debates is that we have no game-changing speaker out there at present. And, of course my judgement about the impact of a speaker is unlikely to capture the views of the voters be they decided or undecided.
This week two leaders and their possible successors were tested. Alistair Cook opened the batting for England in Cardiff, and David Cameron started for the Government at Westminster
Here are my notes made at the time, [8th July 2015] which have been slightly edited for clarity purposes.
The Guardian captured the awakening mood in the mainline UK political parties to the danger coming from Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership of the SNP:
According to Boris Johnson she’s King Herod. She’s Lady Macbeth. She’s Attila the Hun.
Piers Morgan in the Mail is more circumspect. For him, Sturgeon is merely “the most dangerous woman in Britain”. This, says Sturgeon, is “possibly one of the nicest things the Mail has ever said about me”.
The newspapers that carried these gentlemanly hysterics, agree that Sturgeon is a kidnapper, warning the UK on their pages that she is holding the country “to ransom”. The Times eschews such hyperbole, suggesting only that she is only going to hold the UK’s defence to ransom.
Gosh. Even if the SNP takes every seat in Scotland – and that’s not beyond the bounds of possibility – it will still only have one in every 13 Commons votes. If Westminster really is this vulnerable, then, really, it’s brought its troubles on itself.
The Evidence from the Manifesto launch
Your editor settled down to review the launch of the SNP manifesto [20th April 2015]. As there would be many reports of the manifesto, I decided to concentrate on the style of the new political star of the Election Campaign. What follows is my unexpurgated notes, (minor corrections for clarity only).
Strong, clear, uncluttered content. Unusually easy to understand. Compared with other high profile figures in the GE, least evasive. Not shackled by the need to stay on message.
Like all public speakers, had to speak both to supporters, and a wider constituency at the same time. How to please the former yet deal with different possibly conflicting views of the important ‘distal’ audience?
Not either or, but both and
As I have argued elsewhere, effective dealing with dilemmas is often a matter of seeing through a block imposed by either or thinking. Sturgeon demonstrated to process frequently, both in her prepared address, and in the subsequent Q & A.
The launch of the manifesto is taking place before an audience of her supporters, plus a regiment of journalists. The supporters are there to provide the evidence of their own unconditional commitment to leader and what she had to say about the manifesto. The journalists want good ‘exclusive’ copy, revealing something suited to their own ends about the leader and her party.
As indicated above, the SNP has been increasingly been presented by opponents including most of the press, as a fifth column, intent on winning seats to gain power in Westminster by propping up a minority Labour government and dishing the Tories. This in turn is intended to achieve another Referendum for Scottish Independence, and to a break-up of the United Kingdom.
It would have been a popular move to say to the faithful, ‘you bet your last bawbee I’m goin’ta stuff it to ’em.’ (‘Hell, yes’ as Ed Miliband put it). She also needed to reassure those who were paying attention to Boris and The voters that her opponents wanted to scare off enough to turn away from the SNP needed to hear quite the opposite message. ‘We won’t cause any trouble and only vote on Scottish matters.‘
There are various ways of dealing with the dilemma. Nicola Sturgeon neatly put emphasis on rendering unto Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s and unto the Scotland their entitlement. The effect was to suggest a win-win process helping Scotland and the entire UK towards a socially acceptable and prosperous future.
More Yes Anding
A second example of Yes And framing came at the start of the Q & A.
Sturgeon introduced the session by saying in effect: These journalists have their job to do. (Pause, as if to calm an easy-to-arouse border terrier sniffing out an intruder). They should not be badly mauled if you don’t like the questions… Then a neat punch-line. Of course, feel free to applaud my answers as loudly as you like. (They did).
The Q&A went well. The press vipers were pretty much defanged.
Beyond the style
I refocused on the substance behind a pretty impressive presentation style. Overall, it seemed to occupy the policy space Labour would like to have found itself in, but had chosen to retreat from.
Her answers for the most part remained clear and convincing. Her dealing with the costing of her fiscal measures was perhaps less sure-footed.
Her emphasis on opposing and even ending austerity was obviously hugely popular for her supporters.
For all the clear victory in this battle, leaving the enemy in some disarray, the war is far from over.
It is widely reported that Boris Johnson is positioning himself to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and then Prime Minister. His Conference speech illustrates why.
His speeches are coded messages. They are also irresistibly witty. Today [September 30th 2014] he addressed the Conservative Party annual conference. You can see a report of the speech here.
On the eve of the Conference, UKIP announced the defection of a Conservative MP Mark Reckless to its Party. Boris brushed aside this near-crisis PR story with a humorous nautical riff about throwing the Kippers overboard along with [Alex] Salmond.
Boris banishes bad thoughts
The assembled Party activists roared their approval. Boris had banished bad thoughts. Wit had magicked away melancholia.
It was compulsive watching. Like any great performer, he succeeded in captivating his audience. I suspended disbelief. I warmed to Boris’ World.
The world beyond Boris
But I didn’t believe a word in a world beyond Boris. Particularly when he outlined why there was the only one man to lead in Europe. He was building up to saying that man was David Cameron. And he did, with a touch of irony suggesting that his words are funny and charming and not to be taken literally.
And I did find his words funny and charming and not to be taken literally. And if I had been in the Hall, I would have smiled and clapped. Just like David Cameron did.
These are my leadership questions
Will Boris influence the influencers? Will The Conservative party decide it needs Boris as leader before the General Election? Will he be in good position to take over from David Cameron if the Conservatives lose the next election?
Perhaps. And if so, he will deploy an unmatched skill at making people forget their problems. Until, sadly, they have to re-emerge from Borisland.