Politics is about the voters, right? I have always thought that in order to be a successful politician, one must be curious about people. Hungry to find out what drives them, what inspires them, what they worry about and what they wish for.
The most dispiriting aspect of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has been the tin ear the leadership has so often shown to the electorate. Not the Labour Party electorate, but the people that decide who governs the country. The political chefs in Labour HQ conjure up a one-course, non-negotiable policy menu and slap it, unseasoned, under the noses of a doubtful consumer. Take it or leave it. And should we the voters choose to say no? A shrug of the shoulders, one assumes. More fool us.
But something is afoot. This week Labour has put forward policies that seem designed to attract voters. Free school meals, a big hike in the minimum wage, support for small business… Might Team Corbyn actually want to win? I imagine the fine details of Labour’s Easter policy blitz will have passed many readers of this column by.
After all, with Trump, Putin, Boris, Brexit all vying for column inches, the news environment is not particularly friendly to a party that many journalists have already given up on.
The pitiless logic of the polls shows that Labour is, in fact, not battling to be in government but battling for survival. Remember Scotland? Once immovable, Labour came unmoored.
Now, recovery can at best be plotted in decades, not years. Who is to say the same may not already have happened in Labour heartlands all over England and Wales? We will only know for sure at the next general election.
For Labour activists with their backs so much to the wall, a few new policies may only be straws in the wind. But it will come as a relief simply because next time they are on the doorstep, next time they are confronted by the people who will decide their, and their party’s fate, they can say: “We’re listening.”
Congratulations to Christian and Eliza
I send my congratulations to the true custodian of the Editor’s Notes, Christian May, and Eliza Filby on the birth of their son. My own first experience of paternity leave is a blank – having twins was so stressful my mind drew a veil over the experience. A single child next time around was like a walk in the park. I was kicking my heels after a couple of days, went back to work and was treated by colleagues like some sort of Neanderthal.
Battle for Brixton Market already won
When I agreed to write this column, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to make the case for saving my beloved Brixton Farmer’s Market, mounting, (as my wife would say), the bourgeois barricades in the defence of seasonal asparagus.
Read more: This local currency now has an ATM
My crusader zeal was crushed to find that Lambeth Council, who had threatened the traders with closure, backed down before I started writing. I will console myself with a little wild garlic omelette to start, followed by leg of lamb, new potatoes...
Public relations is the realm of Powerpoint
Plunging into the world of public relations after a life in journalism is a change in many ways, but above all it means new levels of responsibility. When I was on TV I had responsibility for one thing and one thing only – what came out of my mouth. Now I think not just about what might happen in today’s 24-hour news cycle but try to shape the direction of my business and equip it for the future. I look with trepidation at spreadsheets; juggle budgets. And (whisper it) I actually manage people!
All this I am taking, to varying degrees, in my stride. But one challenge still looms large. Its name is Powerpoint. Everything in PR is about Powerpoint. No sentence is complete without a “slide”. No argument, without a supporting, attractively shaded graph. To one who used to imagine a well-turned phrase or a telling piece of information might hold the viewer’s attention, it is a stinging rebuke. Thankfully I have a secret weapon. As well as the realm of public relations, I am learning that Powerpoint has a hold on our children’s education. And so I am getting tutorials from my eight-year-old son.