Yes We Can: Lessons from Obama

November 8, 2008

More thoughts on the Glenrothes by-election.

It was strange. The SNP ahead in the polls, a short Labour surge to level, before the SNP went once again ahead.

The SNP confident, Labour overly pessimistic.

Pundits predicting a narrow SNP win.

Since I wrote yesterday about the Obama effect on the by-election, the parallels between the Glenrothes by-election and the New Hampshire Democratic Primary came to my thoughts.

An election which Obama was widely predicted to win.

The polls were good; pundits were agreed. Hillary Clinton seemed resigned to the loss.

But Hillary Clinton took the state’s nomination.

Of course, later Barack Obama went on to defeat Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Presidential nominee.

And went on to win the U.S. Presidential election in an historic victory.

Obama used the lessons in the New Hampshire election to spur on his support, warning them of the dangers of complacency:

“For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky or think this is all set, I just have two words for you: New Hampshire”

In the middle of October when things were looking rosy he reminded his campaign staff:

From Ben Smith’s blog:

‘On a conference call with his campaign staff just now, Barack Obama delivered the same message he’s been telling donors: Don’t get cocky.

‘Obama got on the staff call with campaign manager David Plouffe to praise his staff, but also to tell them not to become overconfident, because — in my source’s paraphrase — “too many people are counting on us not to screw this up.’

‘Eighteen days, he reminded them, is a long time, and he told them to “run scared,” run as though they were 10 points down, and “remember New Hampshire.”

Glenrothes is the SNP’s New Hampshire.

And like Barack Obama’s ‘two words: New Hampshire’, Glenrothes should sound as a future warning to complacency.

As people depended on Barack Obama; Scotland’s future depends on the SNP.

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‘Dead Cat’ holds Glenrothes

November 7, 2008

So the Gordon Brown ‘Dead Cat’ bounce has held Glenrothes for Labour.

Its probably bought a few months of air fresheners for the ailing Gordon Brown Government. And probably keep Gordon Brown in his job till the forced General Election in 2010.

But I suspect the public will notice the cat is still dead is due course.

No amount of air fresheners can cover up the decay.

So if that’s Labour what about the SNP?

By-elections give momentum, and although the SNP increased their vote and ate substantially into Labour’s 10 600 majority, many pundits expected them to take the seat.

So the SNP’s blistering momentum from the Glasgow East victory has been slowed.

Still going forward but at a more steady pace.

Alex Salmond has said that his party needs to take a look at how it can combat Labour’s negative campaigning.

I agree, but surely there is only one way to go?

That’s to become even more positive.

Once you become mired in negative politics then not only do you demean your party – and play into the hands of your opponents – but you switch off the voters. Labour does negative campaigning well; they need to – their backs are against the electoral wall, and they lack any vision of where New Labour is going. Although the SNP ran a positive campaign, perhaps they should have killed the negative Labour stories faster.

I think the last thing Scotland needs in its politics is the negative campaigning usually seen in the U.S. The Unionist parties and press are halfway there already, I’d hate to see it get worse!

As Barack Obama shows a positive campaign with the right message can achieve fantastic results.

The SNP dusted off their 1997 election slogan ‘Yes we can’ after Barack Obama’s historic victory in the United States.

In hindsight, they should have used it much earlier when they saw the polls favouring the Obama campaign.

It might have got them some decent press for once.

Then on Obama winning they might have had their own bounce.

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Labour give up on Glenrothes

November 6, 2008

Benedict Brogan of the Daily Mail has said that Labour have admitted defeat in the Glenrothes by-election:

“By the way, Labour word is that Glenrothes is a lost cause.

“The SNP will take it by 1500, give or take 500.

“I don’t detect a Brown Central attempt to prepare a “shock” win. Instead they say that had they had a few days more it might have made a difference, and that without Gordon and Sarah Brown’s personal intervention the result would be far worse.

“So the good news is that defeat will be masked by the Obama euphoria.

“The bad news, as Team Dave will doubtless put it, is that the Novice won, and Gordon lost.”

The same bad admission by Labour is repeated by The Evening Standard:

‘Party insiders conceded that the contest was a “lost cause” despite evidence that the Scottish National Party’s lead in the seat had been narrowed in recent days.’

‘A No10 insider said that if the party had a couple more weeks to campaign, it could have pulled off a victory against the odds. “But we just don’t look like getting it.” A Labour source added that the seat was now a lost cause, though the SNP majority would be tight at possibly around 1,000 votes.’

Interesting that Labour think another couple of weeks would have helped their campaign. Of course no-one knows for sure.

The bookies though give a probability of a Labour win at around 25%, the SNP around 75%.

And interestingly, the Labour probability was falling and the SNP probability was rising over the last week.

It hardly backs up Labour’s perception of ‘just another couple of weeks’ to campaign, does it?

The media are already bracing themselves for another change of position on Gordon Brown.

As seen in The First Post:

‘Senior Labour party figures are braced for an election defeat to a strong Scottish National Party in today’s byelection in the former safe seat of Glenrothes. A heavy defeat could trigger renewed speculation over Gordon Brown’s ability to lead Labour to an election victory.’

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Obama’s Negative Flakeage Rate

November 4, 2008

I thought I’d heard a lot of political doublespeak in my time.

But this ‘Negative Flakeage Rate’ is a new one on me.

What that means is instead of people promising to volunteer (and then not bothering), instead people are volunteering and persuading friends to volunteer too.

This guy is Obama’s National Field Director, Jon Carson, and he’s pretty happy with the Obama campaign especially in the marginal ‘toss-up’ states.

It just makes me wonder about the Glenrothes by-election.

Will Labour or the SNP be wondering about their flakeage rates among their voters?

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Glenrothes by-election campaign warning

November 1, 2008

OK – the headline is a bit of a tease. The story is somewhat tangential but stick with it.

Just surfing the net I found this incredible story of a baggage handler in Atlanta opening up the cargo hold of a plane and coming face to face with a live cheetah!

Obviously the flight was delayed (whilst they wrote the sequel to Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane, I imagine):

‘”They told us a large animal had gotten out of a container in the cargo hold and they were having to send someone to tranquilize it,” said one passenger, Lee Sentell of Montgomery, Ala.

‘He said luggage was delayed, but baggage handlers promised to send his bags to him in Alabama.

‘The good news for passengers: The escaped cheetah didn’t damage any of their luggage.’

So I got to thinking? What if this had been Scotland?

Would John Smeaton have wrestled the big cat into submission?

“Aye. Cheetah’s may be fast, but they’re no match for Glaswegians. We’ll just set about ye!”

It prompted a bit more internet surfing.

And here’s where the Glenrothes by-election campaign warning comes in:-

Apparently there is a big cat prowling around the constituency!

Here’s a photograph from an actual sighting in Methil, from ScottishBigCats.co.uk:

Methil Mauler

They say:

‘We revealed in last week’s edition that the organisation Big Cats in Britain was keen to set up webcams around Fife in a bid to prove the existence of big cats once and for all – but for Ms Miller there’s no question.

‘”They definitely exist,” she says, “I think there’s more than one around here to be honest.”‘

So watch out they may be a Big Cat in Glenrothes.

So that’s the reason why the Labour minders operate a ‘shoot to kill’ policy!

And the reason why Gordon Brown hardly ventures far from his campaign headquarters door!

Black fur. No doubt yellow eyes. The cat must be an SNP supporter!

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Glenrothes PR disaster

October 23, 2008

I feel sorry for Sarah Brown.

Ushered into the Glenrothes constituency to try and boost her husband’s flagging party, the Labour campaigners turned what should have been a well-orchestrated media campaign into an absolute shambles.

The Prime Minister’s wife was ushered round 9 pre-selected homes in Cardenden.

Unfortunately it seems that the Labour ushers were a bit too much for the journalists.

From The Scotsman:

‘Journalists who then found themselves walking beside Mrs Brown struggled to avoid being tripped up as party members muscled in, trying to form a protective phalanx.

Then came the most extraordinary piece of control freakery of the day. “I want you guys on the green,” said the man from the Labour Party. “There will be six or seven guys with guns who will keep you away from her. You may be shot and then it won’t be my problem.” ‘

Threatening to kill the assembled journalists can’t have gone down well with the press.

This only days after the Commonwealth Journalists Association issued a declaration against the abuse of journalists at their conference in Malaysia:

“We will expose and embarrass. We will lobby our own governments to pressure these despots into treating journalists with basic human respect.”

Various papers just went and interviewed those on the street not fortunate enough for a visit instead:

The Herald:

‘Darren Brovan, 23, a joiner who said he was not given the option of a visit from the PM’s wife, watched the tightly managed procession from an upstairs window.

‘He said: “It doesn’t seem very fair that she’s not going round everyone’s house, though I suppose I wouldn’t have answered the door to her anyway. I lost my job last month, because of the credit crunch, and I think that’s the government’s fault. But what would be the point in me bringing that up with the Prime Minister’s wife? What difference would it make? She’d have forgotten my name in two minutes anyway.” ‘

The Scottish Daily Express:

‘Anne Murray, 45, who did not have a Labour banner in her window, was apparently unworthy of a visit.

‘She said: “I would have asked her, ‘Where’s your husband?’

“She should have been here last night when there were three police cars and an ambulance in the street. I can’t tell you why because I would have my windows put in.” ‘

And the people she did visit?

The Scottish Daily Express:

‘One of the doors she happened to stop at was that of Joni Doig, 37, the daughter of Labour councillor Margo Doig. Joni said: “She was lovely and said she thought Labour might win. We know them quite well. My dad did a bit of painting and decorating for her and Gordon in their house in Inverkeithing last year.”

‘Kathleen McNulty, Councillor Doig’s next-door neighbour, also received a visit.’

The Scotsman:

‘Natasha Burns, 18, held her 18-month-old son, McKenzie, who was agog at the goings-on. She said: “He couldn’t believe the commotion. She was just talking away to him and he said: ‘hi’ when she said: ‘Goodbye’.” ‘

A typical street in Cardenden then, merely coincidentally where a Labour councillor lives.

What gets me is Sarah Brown was a founding partner of Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications, a public relations company. I bet she is livid over Labour’s handling of her photo-opportunity!

I’d guess if she visits the Glenrothes constituency again she’ll want a lot more say in how things are run.

Its hardly the start to the campaign that Labour could have wanted.

Sarah Brown was supposed to be Labour’s spearhead in the Glenrothes campaign, according to the Daily Record.

They have a quote from Labour’s Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy:

“Sarah will shine on the doorstep. Her decision is a real boost for our campaign and it’s a signal Labour is fighting for every single vote.”

When he meant Labour was fighting for every vote, it meant using guns then?

Oops!

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Jack McConnell – part time MSP

October 5, 2008

Gordon Brown has successfully avoided a forthcoming by-election in Motherwell and Wishaw.

Instead of Jack McConnell jetting off to Malawi to take over from Richard Wildash as the Malawi High Commissioner, he will instead become a part time diplomat working with war-torn nations. He will keep his MSP seat. The Motherwell and Wishaw electorate will have to put up with a part-time MSP.

Perhaps Jack’s experience in Motherwell and Wishaw dealing with his local Labour Party will put him in good stead.

The former First Minister will keep the part time job until 2011.

The Malawi High Commissioner role will be filled by a career diplomat until then.

Jack McConnell was due to leave for the Malawi High Commissioner job. It created rumours that the subsequent by-election would be held on the same day as the Glenrothes by-election, splitting the SNP’s activists between the two campaigns.

A divide and conquer approach may have helped Labour hold the seats.

Perhaps Labour have done their own calculations about their own activists and discovered that they haven’t got the activist base to fight these two by-elections on the same day.

Now both the SNP and Labour can solely concentrate on the Glenrothes by-election.

Whenever Labour gets round to calling it.

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