Wednesday 27 October 2010

It's the economy, stupid

Next week America goes to the polls in their mid-term elections and it looks as if President Obama's Democrat Party is going to get a bloody nose. The latest poll overnight shows the Republicans with a 14 point lead with crucial non-aligned independent voters. These independents helped lift Democrats to power in 2006 and pushed Obama into office in 2008.

There are some important lessons for the UK Government from these latest polls. 66 per cent of independents say the recovery legislation - Obama's stimulus - is not working. While a massive 69 percent of independents say they have less faith in government now than they did just before Obama was elected.

Lesson one: That old favourite 'It's the economy, stupid'. The US has spent billions on the biggest stimulus package since the great depression but individual communities are not seeing the results. The scale of the bank bailout is also used to beat Obama with, as he lets other businesses go under. Bill Clinton won the Presidency despite President Bush senior having a strong economic record. The reason? Clinton was able to communicate a message that resonated with individual communities and individual families. Obama and his spending splurge in contrast seems remote and impersonal. The coalition needs to find a way to communicate its economic policy in a way that small towns across the UK will understand. If they don't their economic competence score will suffer.

Lesson two: Don't over promise. Obama's election campaign became a movement or cause rather than a political campaign. It gave people hope. But too much. David Cameron in opposition, on the whole, managed to achieve a balance in his tone and language that ensured he didn't over-promise.

In Government there has been a few cases where perhaps a little bit of spin has been used to get traction on a story. The Government will need to watch this. It also needs to be more robust in its language in a way that will resonate with families. It is a delicate balance - to fight the fear of failure and a double dip recession without over-promising.

For me, the next three months are crucial for the Government's communication and to set the right tone for the hard months ahead. Optimistic without over promising. Strong without being remote.

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