Monday, 20 December 2010

Why the Lib Dems are experiencing severe turbulence

Ask a Christian what gets them through their tough times and they say it's their faith. Ask a soldier what gets them through an engagement with the enemy, and it will more likely than not be their training, coupled with a desire not to let the man next to them down. Top sporting stars have a similar outlook. Ask a politician what guides them and it will be their ideology framed by pragmatism.

This is where the Lib Dems current problems in the polls are grounded. Their celebrity backers, it is reported, are withdrawing their support. Their own MPs don't seem to have the courage of their convictions or know what should guide them through these current choppy waters. Fundamentally it is because they are lacking any defining principles or ideology.  

All political parties are, to all intents and purposes, coalitions. Where political parties have guiding principles, the Lib Dems seem to find the cupboard is empty. The Lib Dems have grown support based on a few powerful issues which has matched the rise in issues based campaigning in British politics in recent years. Take away one of these issues - tuition fees for instance - from the Lib Dems offering and their support, based on backing that one campaign, disappears. 

At a birthday party recently (but before the tuition fees row) I was introduced to a senior lawyer from one of the Magic Circle law firms. In the course of the conversation they were very keen to announce themselves as a Lib Dem. So I asked why? I wasn't being clever. I just wanted to know. The interesting thing? He didn't have an answer.

In business firms spend millions on building corporate identities and put in huge efforts to make sure remote and diverse locations of the same company have the same culture.
When training businesses in how to deal with the media, one of the essential elements I teach is, when you feel you're getting into trouble during an interview, fall back on your key messages. In crisis communications you should always have a well formed plan which is your point of safety to allow you to grab control of the rapidly changing story.

In politics it is the same; once you start to get buffeted around by events it is very difficult to communicate effectively and cut through the noise. Without a steel rod of ideology or genuine guiding principles running through their core to fall back on, the Lib Dems are finding they are experiencing severe turbulence from this buffeting. This is likely to last for some time to come.

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