Conducting strategy in public

When politicians publicly ask for expressions of support for their plans, they’re giving away too much power.

The UK Government recently called for small businesses to lobby them publicly over plans to make it easy to dismiss staff. If you have to make this call publicly, then it is likely that:

  1. You don’t get out of the office much, so lack contact with the audience to which you’re speaking
  2. You don’t know enough of the audience to make phone calls to them or the influencers
  3. You’re confusing strategy with persuasive messages

The first two ought to be the bedrock of politics. But professional politicians often have far bigger political networks than public networks.  The cult of celebrity politics creates an unreal environment in which reality is seeing yourself on television.

The irony of this approach is that it hands over any power you have to the audience.

The NZ Government recently handled this much better over oil drilling and exploration. It privately expressed its frustration at the failure of the oil industry to say enough in public about why the oil and gas industry is a good thing.

This is the right approach. The Government is doing what it thinks is right for the country, and for the industry, and in part, it is responding to the industry’s own prior lobbying. It is the industry’s duty to back up its position with some public statements on its views.

In our sort of active democracy, where decisions live or die on opinion polls, those who want a certain outcomes have to say so. Absence of public statements weakens the resolve of the silent supporters, and weakens the resolve of a Government which lives on public approval.

Support which is orchestrated, compelled, or desperately requested by the Government, is not worth a lot. 

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