Clegg’s basic political communications blunder

There is plenty of interest in Nick Clegg’s Guardian interview ahead of his new book. What particularly caught my eye was his confirmation of what I had long suspected: he fundamentally didn’t get how winning over voters works:

I mistakenly assumed that if I worked hard within government, did my homework and took decisions on their merits, then, one way or another, the truth – that the coalition was acting out of reasonable motives – would become plain to see and political dividends would follow.

It is certainly desirable to prioritise getting the substance of governing right. But it is to completely misunderstand how little attention most people pay to politics to think that somehow doing the work transforms into people knowing, especially for a small party.

People don’t know unless you put huge efforts into telling them, having it as a major consideration all through your efforts rather than leaving it to a bit of election planning every few years, by when it is too late.

More on that in the new second edition of 101 Ways To Win An Election.

As to why Nick Clegg made that mistake, it is not a coincidence that his previous experiences as a candidate had never involved being a challenger scrapping for every possible sliver of attention that could be prised away from the incumbent.

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