Monday, December 16, 2019

Eleven for Christmas

We are now at the post-election phase when people write pieces about how the result proves that whatever they have been saying all along was right and if everyone had done what they said they should, all would be fine.

It's cognitive dissonance. Nature's way of ensuring that we keep making the same mistakes and feel good about it.

So, here is mine.

Rather than say, 'I told you so,' even though I did, here are my ten commandments. There are eleven of them.

1. The press is biased against Labour. Of course it is. You knew that before the election. Don't moan about it now. That's why winning Labour leaders had strategies to deal with it, run by ruthless and effective press officers. Think Joe Haines and Alastair Campbell. Don't think posh apologists for Stalin.

2. Relevant to the above is that study after study shows that propaganda is only effective if it is rooted in either real, lived experience, or in widely held popular prejudices. Attacks on Corbyn were often exaggerated but were not 'smears.' They were mainly true. It's best not to pick a leader who is vulnerable, but if you insist on doing it, be honest and apologise for past 'mistakes'. Don't flood the internet with lies about his saintliness.

3. The electoral system is crap. Again, you knew that before, and you knew that you couldn't change it without winning by it. There is no constitution fairy. You have to plan your strategy around it. That meant not flooding unwinnable seats with resources and not bothering with the ones that you could lose. It also meant not splitting your vote. Johnson got that, winning over the Faragists. So, what did Labour and the Lib Dems do? Slag each other off and run candidates against each other, giving the Tories a large number of seats with small majorities on a minority of the vote. Genius.

4. Don't develop theories without examining the data. The truth is much more complex than the headlines. Really don't. Oh. You have.

5. Know your enemy. Johnson was a terrible candidate in a weak position. He had one strength. He was new. He was the change candidate, even though he wasn't really. The public needed time to see his weaknesses – so you must never give him the advantage of an early election before disillusion sets in. That's why we passed a Fixed Term Parliament Act. Ah.

6. Know your enemy and know yourself. Johnson was a terrible candidate and his strategists knew it. Corbyn was an even worse one, and Johnson's strategists knew that too. It might have seemed a weakness to have hidden Johnson away in a cupboard, but it was canny. It meant the election became about Corbyn. And because of his vanity and hubris, Corbyn welcomed it. Except that he was generally loathed and ridiculed. An election about Corbyn was lost from day one.

7. Don't think the election result was determined by your pet hobbyhorse, even if it was. For example, I have never seen a Lexiter, who says that if we had supported leave we would have won, explain what would have happened with the 70% of Labour voters who voted remain. How about taking a decision based on your judgement of the national interest and explain and defend it clearly, preferably without patronising people?

8. Don't fudge vital issues, it makes you look as if you don't know what you are doing. OK. You really don't know what you are doing, I get that, but don't make it look as if you don't.

9. Don't ignore the data if you don't like it. Labour were given extensive polling and intelligence from their key constituencies. All said that they were in deep trouble and were going to lose big. So, what did they do? You guessed right.

10. When looking to elect a new leader to sort out this horrible mess, just remember that authority trumps authenticity.

11. Clarity beats complexity in any campaign. Don't offer a jumble of policies – fix on one or two clear, decisive pledges, like, er, 'Get Brexit done.' Oh dear.

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