259: Campaigning under a majority government
Just as public affairs is reacting to having a majority government in place, there are also implications when it comes to campaigning as well. What do you do when facing a government with a big majority?
Following my look at the implications for public affairs now we have a majority government, this blog considers what it means for campaigning as well. Whilst campaigns may benefit from the stability of a majority government and the removal of the threat of general elections, there is a real prospect of trying to push an issue that the government may not, at least initially, support. With a small, or non-existent, majority, governments can be swayed. But with a majority in place that lack of support could look pretty insurmountable.
So we need to think cleverly especially when trying to convince a possibly otherwise sceptical majority government.
- Support from the top – the apparent centralisation of power in number 10, taking in number 11 and special advisers across other departments, could be a blessing or a curse. If you can convince them about the merits of a campaign then everything may fall into place. If not, then prepare for a longer and harder road and consider these in your timescales. But always keep a focus on how to influence ‘the top’.
- Think carefully about potential allies – work out who is going to have most impact in your campaign. Who is the government potentially going to take notice of or who could help bind together support for you? On the face of it, an 80 + seat majority makes defeat impossible but start to chip away and get a groundswell of opinion and any government would be foolish to ignore that. So have a look around parliament and you can start to see disaffected now ex ministers, those deposed as select committee chairs, those that feel they are being constantly overlooked for promotion. They could all be open to being a little less accepting of the government’s approach.
- The red wall – this government will be obsessed by keeping the ‘red wall’ demolished. So any campaign that helps to prevent its rebuilding may be attractive. So understanding the government’s agenda, priorities and timescales are critically important to any campaign.
- Social media – being responsive to the electorate is another early mantra of this government. That means that the use of social media, in terms of scale of support, could be essential in any campaign. If it is about numbers and / or very organised campaign groups then that could mean Facebook but also Instagram. This approach can, of course, then be tied into the ‘traditional’ media campaign as well. I have a feeling that the government will get twitchy if too many Daily Mail or Daily Telegraph seem to be hostile. Despite the size of the majority if there is any hint that they aren’t listening to the electorate then they will react. The last time there were big majority governments, social media was in its relative infancy and many platforms didn’t exist.
- Think outside of Westminster – any campaign needs to think about audiences outside of London, not least mayors, but also make an effort not just to be about the ‘Westminster bubble’. Anything that smacks of that type of campaign will simply be brushed off.
- Think data – the more a campaign is backed-up by evidence and data, the better. Again, this will important when trying to convince those at ‘the top’. But think about the type of evidence needed and how that fits with the government’s priorities – that could mean it is economic, may be about the environment or highlights the narrowing of inequalities.
There is plenty to plan for in any campaign and with a majority government all that planning just got a little more complicated. So take the time to plan and, if needed, bring in views from outside. It will help put you on the right path from the outset.