Yesterday on Twitter (today, if you don't do twitter but do read my linkspams)
I linked to a post called Why Marketers Fear the Female Geek
. If you read my blog for libdemmery or Doctor Who you might not have bothered clicking the link, but I urge you to do so. It's the clearest explanation of how marketing works I have ever read. Go ahead, do it now, I'll wait.
The more astute among you will have already realised how this applies to British politics. Especially if you were listening to the news this morning. Both Labour and Tories have announced things today which are desperately chasing a small and shrinking proportion of the population, actively at the expense of everyone else (in Labour's case it's racists, in the Tories' case it's pensioners). Why are they doing this? Well, because they are marketing men. David Cameron worked in PR, for pity's sake. They've identified a demographic they can appeal to and they are appealing for all they are worth, trying to squeeze every last vote out.
The problem is, the longer this goes on, the more people are left out in the cold. Politicians whine all the time about decreased turnout at elections, but then they only ever try to appeal to a subset of those who already vote, which leaves everybody else angry and feeling disenfranchised.
Politics desperately needs a Disruptive Innovator. And it really, REALLY should be the Lib Dems. We made a half-arsed attempt at it in 2010 with the Tuition Fees + No More Broken Promises schtick, and we ALL know how that went; if anything that has made things worse because we didn't follow through on our marketing. But we can, and should, do better. We have LOTS of disruptive and innovative policies, we just need to get them taken seriously by the electorate. Well, I say,
... After last time there is going to be a once bitten, twice shy effect.
I think we're doing better with the Euro campaign for this year. We're the only party not doing the racist dog whistle race to the bottom of saying IMMIGRUNTS BAD all the time. We're pointing out actual facts and things about how being in Europe and free movement of peoples across Europe actually makes us richer, both economically and socially. In a country that's reading a lot of Daily Mail, that's bold, radical, disruptive innovation right there.
We need to be thinking about how we're going to do this for the general. And we need to be thinking about it now, if not sooner.
ETA: it has been pointed out to me that perhaps I could have worded one of the sentences in this better. Pensioners are, as a group, growing as a proportion of the population. But if you are appealing to voters you are appealing to individuals within a group, not the whole group, and individual pensioners get old and die. If you craft a message that appeals to post-war generation pensioners but ignores the baby boomers (like my parents) who have VERY different views, the group you are appealing to is shrinking and you are putting off their replacements.