Friday, May 19, 2006


Stick ‘Green Action’ on Every Leaflet Ever

‘You can’t sell national messages in every FOCUS’.

Health issues like asthma or illness from poor housing
Rubbish in the streets
Clean air
Overseas aid and charity
Action by your local MP, MEP, MSP, Welsh or London Assembly Member
Abandoned cars
Water supply
Cuts to the trains
Animal welfare
GM crops and other food scares
Traffic jams
Clean buildings, walls and pavements
Air pollution, river pollution and sea pollution
Yes, you can.

On every page of our Manifestos there’s a box marked ‘Green Action’.

Just do the same with every leaflet you ever deliver.

In almost every Lib Dem leaflet I’ve ever read, at least one of those issues above has been mentioned – let alone the ‘big issues’ such as global warming, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy efficiency, air travel…

It’s not rocket science.

If you want a short, simple, clear, cheap way to get across our big message in your local area, every time you mention those issues, stick a ‘GREEN ACTION!’ flash on your FOCUS next to it and get the added value of local campaigns all showing the same national principle.

The biggest problem we have with our green message is not that voters don’t like it when they hear it but that the media aren’t interested in reporting it. So do what we always do, and go local with it. FOCUS was adopted around the time I was born to get our message into homes when the media ignored us, and has been fantastically successful. The concentration on local issues where others arrogantly ignore them is rightly praised, but when it’s still often the only way that people see a Liberal Democrat message, there’s a value-added boost available from national messages that often gets lost. It’s easy to make the mistake of one grundging election-time leaflet on entirely national issues that fail to pick up on local loyalties, and others with all-local content that fails to move people with a national or international agenda, and I’ve made both mistakes in my time. This is a simple way to combine the two messages and reach the parts neither can on their own.

We all know most FOCUS leaflets have some sort of environmental action on them already, and it’s easy enough to make it all of them. If you give them the same ‘Green Action’ tag every single time, coupled with local headlines within that, there’ll be an added value of people concerned with ‘the environment’ in general that right now we miss, quite unnecessarily, because they don’t make the connection. It might make people realise part of, “Oh, that’s what the Lib Dems are for, and I like it.”

We’re brilliant at acting locally, but you rarely see much global thinking in a FOCUS. We have to talk ‘environment’ all year round and in big headlines, so that drip by drip we establish ourselves as the natural choice for action on the environment (by implication making the Green Party mere protest), perhaps with a strapline at the bottom of each box just to make sure everyone gets the message, “The party for action on the environment, not just hot air”. If you have a lean month, pick a paragraph on a Lib Dem environment policy, or national press release, or something your MSP, GLAM, MEP or the like has said, or a health story like ‘Pollution means diseases like asthma have shot up in our area’. Oh, yes – and print your FOCUS on recycled paper, and say so, every time.

The important thing is, tap away at that Green vote without a single pause, because if you wait until election time they will always trump us on the issue. Leave it ’til the ballot paper, and we can’t compete with their name. Establishing ourselves as their natural home between elections is the only way to target them, using sheer, ruthless familiarity. The party’s attempts at integrated campaigning have never been able to get us all singing from the same hymn sheet, but if I could tour the country’s Lib Dems – or, if you’re reading, Mr Huhne, if you’re reading, ALDC – I would urge one thing on every Liberal Democrat leaflet that ever rolls off the presses (apart from a graph that shows why we’re best-placed to beat our main opponents, of course): a box marked ‘Green Action’ that should always, always be there.

To paraphrase David Penhaligon, put it on a piece of recycled paper and stick it through a letterbox. Pass it on.

Darn, I read this about 20 hours too late. However, considering the current focus is full of Green issues the message will get across.

Next time I'll add the box.
I want to contribute some observations on the Greens as a member of the Australian Democrats. As you look over what I say do keep in mind that (a) Australian politics and UK politics are different, (b) the Australian Democrats (ADs) and the UK Liberal Democrats are different, and (c) that the Australian Greens and the UK Greens may be different...

Every party is a competitor for every other party. In that sense you need to assess how much of a challenge any other party is to yours. With that in mind you have been discussing the Greens in the context of normal electoral competition for voter attention and loyalty. I suspect however that in the case of the Greens you may have to also look at the effect they may have directly on your campaigners.

It is my understanding that there are standards of conduct among campaigners in a parliamentary democracy over and above those stipulated by the law. In other words there is a kind of shared understanding among most campaigners for most parties as to what is the done thing in inter-party relations. In my experience the Greens dismiss many of these standards thereby directly affecting rival campaigners. Two experiences of mine serve as illustrations of this:

1. Members of the ADs were holding a meeting at which a very controversial issue was to be debated. It was likely to be an emotionally charged event at which parliamentarians would practically be interrogated. I was surprised to arrive at this meeting to find that it was actually picketed by Greens complete with placards and dirt sheets given to ADs members as they entered the meeting. It is most unusual in Australia for the members of one party to do that to the members of another party. It definitely made the day more stressful than it had to be.

2. I was campaign manager for an ADs candidate in a Federal by-election. On a number of mornings during the campaign my candidate received phone calls from her Greens counterpart merely to frustrate and annoy her. Once more this is most unusual behaviour particularly since it shifted the focus of both candidates away from actually campaigning. It definitely had the effect of making life more difficult for my colleague.

Fellow ADs have shared similar anecdotes with me and it seems to characterise an aspect of the Greens member culture. The way they think is that as an 'activist' party they can go beyond traditional forms of campaigning to get the job done (as long as it is 'non-violent' then direct action is encouraged). But what was this job they were getting done? I have to say that the average ADs member is a bit spineless. Exposed to the 'direct action' described above many of them will have wanted to minimise any future exposure and became scared of campaigning. What if the Greens knew this? I have a nasty hunch that some of them intended for us to loose campaigning capacity via such tactics.

What is the purpose of this long comment (thanks for the patience)? Well hopefully the UK Greens have more respect for standards of conduct between campaigners than those in Australia do. Focusing ones campaign efforts on the voters is the right way to play the game. Directly aggravating ones competitors for those votes is a shoddy thing to do. But be warned that it is something they may do if they are anything like their antipodean counterparts.
I hate loath and detest the word Green. I was reading Cousteau and occeanography before I went to school. My whole life has been involved and interested with ecology and the environment.
When I see the word Green on any leaflet book or anything I never bother to read it. Green is a field of cabbages or the colour of a coat of paint. It is a superficial coating that can be applied to tart up anything. It lacks depth. Green forget it, don't want it, don't read it, don't need it, don't use it. Give me substance.
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