In this edition our contributors give their thoughts on the EU Referendum and the US election debate and Lansons explores online communities and global messaging
As Cameron fails to convince his own party to stay in the EU, can Corbyn rise to the challenge?
by James Dowling
by James Dowling, Head of Public Policy, email@example.com
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For a detailed round-up and commentator analysis of the Budget 2016, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In his famed January 2013 speech, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined a vision for a new kind of European Union. Arguing for “fundamental, far-reaching change” to the structure of the EU, Cameron made the case for fundamental reform to deliver a union “fit for the 21st Century”. This reform was necessary, “both to deliver prosperity and to retain the support of its peoples”.
Cameron outlined a reform approach characterised by flexibility, greater competitiveness, devolution of power back to member states, more democratic accountability and fairness between those within and without the Eurozone. Such an approach would refresh the democratic mandate of the EU in the UK – a place where it was “now wafer thin”; which is why, following such a reform, the Prime Minister intended to cement this through the now-scheduled Brexit referendum.
That speech was delivered (after being rearranged twice) at Bloomberg’s London HQ on a freezing January morning. It remains one of the best set-pieces Cameron has ever done, and laid out a serious case for fundamental reform of the EU, for the benefit of all its citizens. Although he was never going to convince those in his party who were committed to the UK’s departure from the EU, his use of language was deliberately big and generous – designed to appeal across the political spectrum, and to create an optimistic vision of the future in a reformed EU.
Do you think that the EU Reform deal will make you:
It is arguable that Cameron has, in fact, gone a reasonable way towards what he set out in his Bloomberg speech. The think tank Open Europe has described it as “...a step in the right direction. The deal is not transformative, but neither is it trivial. It is the largest single shift in a member state’s position within the EU.” The Prime Minister hailed the reform package as ensuring the UK has a ‘’special status inside the European Union". He will be campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU – and is supported by many of the most significant voices in the Government. This includes Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne; Business Secretary Sajid Javid; Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond; and, Home Secretary Theresa May.
However, if many of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet colleagues backed his judgement, many others in and outside the Government disagreed. Nearly half his MPs have opted to support the Out campaign, including some very significant political names. On Friday 19 February, six senior members of the Government, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove, and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith declared that they would campaign to leave.
Then on Sunday 21 February, in the most dramatic move of the campaign so far, Boris Johnson – Mayor of London and a potential candidate for the Conservative leadership – announced he would be campaigning for Brexit. Boris Johnson is a politician with an appeal like no other – someone who fascinates the media and is able to command support across the political spectrum.
His declaration was designed to maximise media exposure; it has electrified the campaign and hugely increased the likelihood that many Conservative activists and supporters will swing behind the Out lobby, where they might otherwise have supported the Prime Minister. The markets reacted accordingly, with the pound suffering its biggest drop in a year against the dollar following early trading on the following Monday – reflecting the already tight nature of the campaign.
The Conservative Party is deeply split on this issue. This is no news, but Downing Street has clearly been surprised by the extent of the Tory rebellion. In this, Cameron has arguably been the victim of his own failure both to manage expectations around the reform deal, and to communicate the results in a positive, compelling, way afterwards.
Although there are plenty of Conservative die-hards who were never, ever, going to do anything but support Brexit, what is notable is the large number of moderates who have also opted to do so.
'His declaration was designed to maximise media exposure; it has electrified the campaign.'
Dr Sarah Wollaston, for example, the Chair of the Health Select Committee, may have a record as an independent-minded Parliamentarian – but is certainly not a veteran Europhobe with a record of rebelling against the party whip. She has called the Prime Minister’s deal “a threadbare offering” – and will be voting to leave as a consequence. Beyond the Parliamentary Party, over two thirds of the Conservative membership is expected to back Brexit.
In this context, it is arguable that the reform deal has, by exacerbating Conservative woes on Europe, actually made worse the problem it was designed in part to solve. Indeed, a 25 February BMG Research poll for the Evening Standard implies that Cameron would have actually been better positioned if he had not embarked on the renegotiation at all, with only 13% thinking it was a “good deal for the country” (next to 42% who thought it was “poor”).
'...it is arguable that the reform deal has, by exacerbating Conservative woes on Europe, actually made worse the problem it was designed in part to solve.'
With the Conservative party at war with itself, the role of the other parties and the performance of the In campaign will be crucial if the UK is not to fall out of the EU. Over 90% of Labour MPs are expected to campaign to remain in the EU – including the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The SNP and Liberal Democrats will also support continued membership of the EU. Labour has consistently lagged behind the Conservatives since Corbyn’s election as leader, with the most recent poll (from Ipsos MORI, on 17 February) putting them on 33% - six points behind the Conservatives on 39%. For all their recent woes, they do remain the UK party with arguably the most widespread and strongest brand identity across the UK. For the In campaign to succeed, Labour will need to persuade their historic voters – many of whom will likely be predisposed to vote to leave – that it is, nevertheless, in their interest to vote to remain.
Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is led by a man who has historically opposed the EU, and has so far struggled to convince those beyond his own party membership of his fitness as a potential Prime Minister. Those who believe the UK is better off remaining in the EU will need him and his party and the wider campaign to do a better job than Downing Street has so far, in communicating the future benefits of our membership.
James Dowling is Head of Public Policy at Lansons, contact him at email@example.com
For a detailed round-up and commentator analysis of the Budget 2016, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Charisma and Politics: A strange and heady mix
by Ralph Jackson
by Ralph Jackson
Partner and Director at Lansons
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On March 1st 2016 in two cities with the same name but in different countries we witnessed a strange connection that is becoming common currency in global politics. In Birmingham, UK, Christians gathered at the city’s cathedral for a discussion on their faith; in Birmingham, Alabama, the Republican Party faithful decided on ‘Super Tuesday’ that Donald Trump is their preferred candidate for the US Presidential race this year.
Faith and politics go back to time immemorial of course, but what I think is interesting about today’s political classes, in whichever country, is that we are witnessing a redefinition of what this means for us as electors, and politics as a whole. Let’s look at the US and the UK as examples and elsewhere in Europe too.
Barack Obama started this in 2008. While he was a streetwise politician grounded in the politics of Chicago, he was also different too: a lawyer, both cool and charismatic, he inspired a generation with his call for hope and change. A new 21st preacher for the 21st century faithful. Donald Trump has though, pardon the pun, trumped that with his form of evangelism in the current Presidential race. What used to be considered taboo areas at the risk of alienating the electorate are now prime areas (for Trump) for attack typified by his repeated assertion that he will build a wall between Mexico and the US on the border to keep out ‘immigrants’.
This has gone down badly with the Republican grandees, but seemingly has had little impact on Trumps ratings. While the New York
Times labels Trump a ‘shady, bombastic liar’ the voters see nothing other than a charismatic candidate who is unlike any other politician in the race. Does this signal that the alternative, charismatic candidate is now the preferred norm in political elections, or is this an underlying symptom of the declining interest in traditional politics as a whole?If we look at other countries as well as the US, the answer is yes, perhaps, to both questions.
"What used to be considered taboo areas...are now prime areas (for Trump) to attack"
In last year’s UK general election while the surprising result in the country was the return of a majority Conservative Government, the more surprising result was in the resultant leadership election for the Labour party. Out went all the establishment type candidates and in came someone whose politics were rooted in the very left wing causes popular in the 1960s and 1970s. If we cast aside the cynics view that the supporters and electors of Jeremy Corbyn included Conservatives paying a few quid to wreck the Labour party, what we do have is an astonishing popularity for a man and policies which had been consigned to the political dustbin over previous decades. Why?
The answer is complex but again probably is a mix of a charismatic (yes, to some) though strange character who is essentially different to the rest. The best way to vest change, Labour party supports new and old think, is to upset the status quo. Corbyn embodies that sense of change, yet no one in the chattering political classes think he has any hope of achieving office. And yet he could, which even twenty years ago in the UK would have been unheard of. Going backwards is no longer a crime in Labour circles as the policy on defence and security indicates, nor is it apparent that the proponent of this change, J Corbyn, becomes unpopular as a result. On the contrary, to those in his party -though not all – this is a good not a bad sign.
"Going backwards is no longer a crime in Labour party circles as the policy on defence and security indicates"
Trump and Corbyn are political oddities but who together typify a new kind of politician: anti-establishment, old fashioned, principled but prejudiced, yet capable of engendering a form of unswerving loyalty that is the envy of the mainstream. Trump also has money, of course, but which is also considered a good thing – he’s done good, self-made etc etc.
Elsewhere in Europe too we are witnessing a wave of anti-politician politician that is confounding accepted wisdom. In Greece, Alexis Tsipras, is perhaps more like the political idols of the past; reasonably good looking, cultured and easy in many languages, he is also old-fashionably left wing. His party rocked the Greece political classes, and went on to rock the EU stuffed shirts.
So too, in the same well-suited but laid-back vein is Matteo Renzi (pictured right) the current Prime Minister in Italy. A lawyer, smart and charismatic, good looking, but unafraid to take on the establishment. Known as the ‘the scrapper’ because of his crusade to rid Italy of the corrupt and discredited practices of the past, he too is popular, and resented naturally, as a result.
All four of these recent examples indicate that something has changed, and continues to change. This is not just ‘new politics’ it is deeper than that and goes to the changing behavior and wishes of the electorate, ie you and me. Voters have been turned off politics for some time, but in those places something different has happened to turn them on again. To the political watchers this is a bad and damaging occurrence, to others a reason why they are now engaged.
We should not condemn this as it may herald what might become a new era in 21st century politics, the rise and acceptance of the alternative candidate. But I doubt it. We have seen this before (in the US, Reagan, in the UK, Blair) so the political personality is not the reason for why this is interesting, it is more about the voter and why they think this type is more
Are you swayed by the larger-than-life anti-politics-as-usual businessman for the Republicans or the career politician who would become the first female President of the USA, for the Democrats?
- Another candidate from either party
- Not interested
compelling today. To some this is dangerous and damaging for global politics. To me it is a fascinating reason why people should be engaged in the political process, despite the underlying reason(s).
"Trump and Corbyn are political oddities but who together typify a new kind of politician"
Trump and co are the latest turns in the global political circus, and famous for fifteen minutes as Andy Warhol once said.
The trick for anyone seeking to emulate this is to make it a little more permanent.
Ralph Jackson is a Partner and Director at Lansons, contact him at email@example.com
Markets are international conversations
by Michael White
by Michael White, Digital Account Director, Lansons, firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Michael on Twitter
Read Michael's Public Relations Blog
Degrees of Separation
I’ve often obsessed about the social connections between humans, as if somehow the act of touching one’s hand passes on a secret ingredient. In the first year of University I got to shake hands with Stephen Fry, if only that was required for passing a degree. Imagine all the people who he had met, who in turn had met others.
It was American playwright John Guare who first publicised through his play Six Degrees of Separation that the world may be smaller than we think. The theory is that between you and David Cameron (or your uncomfortable Tinder date) is five other points of contact. Just five people are between you and anybody else in the world. Microsoft provided some meat for this theory in 2008 by analysing 30 billion messages on Microsoft Messenger in 2006 that concluded a 6.6 degree of separation[i]
Now Facebook, arguably one of the most connected and actively used social networks in the world has revealed that we’re just 3.57 degrees away from each other (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook). Leaving our next question not to dwell on degrees of separation but to think, why did we feel the world is bigger than it is? You can find out your average distance through your Facebook account here (mine is a lower than average 3.32). No matter where you were born, what your upbringing was like, or what you do for a living, the human race really is one big family; all 7 billion of us are connected with each other. It’s only been in the last 10 years that social media has allowed us to explore the depth of this truth for the first time. Not only as an impact on our social lives, but as a fundamental truth about the internet, it’s international.
"Facebook, arguably one of the most connected and actively used social networks in the world has revealed that we’re just 3.57 degrees away from each other."
It’s also never been more accessible. Across the European Union (EU) the average internet penetration rate stands at 79.3% - that’s 402,937,674 people with internet access. Of all 28 countries only 11 fall below the accumulative average; Romania the lowest at 56%. In a global study of 240 countries 3 billion people were found to use social media, with 2 billion social media accounts detected, 1.6 billion of these used frequently, considered active.
Think of it this way, there are now more internet connected devices on the planet than humans.
Not surprising considering the average British household owns over 7 internet-connected devices[ii]. An infrastructural challenge recognised in the late 1980s when IP address exhaustion was mentioned for the first time[iii].
Organisations need to adapt
Our ability to quickly access information and express ourselves online has fundamentally reshaped our public, private, and personal lives. The World Economic Forum’s report on Digital Media and Society focused specifically on this aspect of modern living, “Around the world, people now spend more time using laptop computers and smartphones than they do in other daily activities, and our ‘connected time’ is on the rise[iv]. Increased usage has proliferated into an array of varying internet-connected devices such as laptop and desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology.
Such developments challenge traditional business models across a multitude of industries as peoples’ behaviours and expectations change in an internet-connected age.
In the UK electronic patient records challenge patients to be data literate with their health[v], in financial services banks across the EU will need to soon face the challenge of providing standardised API access[vi], and in media relations web 2.0[vii] has challenged traditional news structures. Only recently The Independent confirmed an end to its print edition, instead working towards a digital future[viii].These advances challenge organisations to make a cultural shift, maintaining an internal infrastructure that is able to join in with online conversations. This is because markets are conversations and consist of humans with interests, not demographic sectors[ix].
How many internet-connected devices are there in your household?
Social networks encourage connections, interactions, and relationships between people. They are more than cold channels to push marketing materials, they provide the infrastructural means for social connections to be made between people, regardless of geographical boundaries.
An active international social networking community exists for all organisations, as media relations becomes an optional part of public relations. For highly regulated industries, such as financial services and health, social media can be challenging to adopt and require investment. Regardless of whether this investment happens, online conversations continue globally.
The challenge today is to think beyond publications and digital communication ‘channels’. These are not mindless pipes to broadcast information, but international communities who gather around interests. Whether these are passions, questions to solve, industries – degrees of separation haven’t just shown the world is smaller, but highlights pockets of activity.
This can be visually seen when ‘memes’ are shared as shown in the tragic case of Twitter’s most influential moment last year with #RefugeesWelcome. It’s impossible to shift the image of the three year-old Alan Kurdi whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey.
"peoples’ behaviours and expectations change in an internet-connected age."
@LansonsLatest #digital #international
It sparked an international movement, tweets that had the potential to influence foreign policy. Data shows how the first tweet appeared of Alan Kurdi in Turkey, which in 12 hours reached 20 million people around the world[x]. Conversations shifted from ‘migrants’ to ‘refugees’ overnight. #RefugeesWelcome is a sensitive case that examples a significant ability of modern public relations; tracking message changes and influencer connections to the minute.
I've always obsessed about the social connections between people and organisations, and this has never been more important, especially as international social media usage increases. Social media sites are not cold marketing ‘channels’, they are communities who organisations need to engage with as peoples’ behaviours broaden from traditional media relations.
"Social media sites are not cold marketing ‘channels’, they are communities who organisations need to engage with."
Contact Michael White at email@example.com, follow Michael on Twitter and read his Public Relations blog here
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Find out more about Lansons' events
Journeys of Health tech Innovation: Fast-tracking the growth of your company
22nd March 2016, Evening Seminar, Nabarro, London
Lansons Health will be partnering and supporting the Journeys of Health-Tech event held by Nabarro and organised by Health Tech Innovation Labs. Register here to attend and for further details.
Britain at Work 2016
14th April 2016, Breakfast Panel Discussion, London
The Britain at Work report is an insight study of over 3,000 UK employees exploring key elements such as pride in their organisation, leadership, job satisfaction, line management effectiveness, working environment, personal growth and career development.
Following the success of our Britain at Work report in 2015 in conjunction with our partners Opinium, we are pleased to welcome registration to our 2016 breakfast panel discussion, to look at the key highlights and findings from our latest report. Please register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org and click here for more details.