A number of friends, colleagues and industry peers have asked me over the past couple of weeks what my advice would be to Jeremy Corbyn to help him become Prime Minister. It was a fascinating question and got me thinking about how I would approach it if I were pitching for the Leader of the Opposition to be my next client.
The first thing I would do is drill down into the client’s objectives, and here it already starts to get interesting. The question people were asking is how I would help Corbyn become Prime Minister. Is that really his objective? Or is it to win the ‘soul’ of the Labour Party and kill off the Blairites? In my own scenario I am going to deduce it is the latter as the former is probably unachievable.
So the next step is to define our strategy. How am I going to help Corbyn win back the party’s soul? My strategy would be to present him as an authentic leader rooted in traditional Labour values in the Marxist tradition. This would need to be a disciplined campaign – strong in the face of opposition from within the Parliamentary Labour Party, from the right-wing press, from business and, most important of all, from the Great British public. So how will I convince members? The messages are simple.
1. Labour can be pure and it can be electable.
2. Prosperity can come from mandatory public ownership.
3. The UK will never intervene with military force in the world again.
Our target audience would be the hard and soft left. Everyone else can get on board, get out, or simply be ignored. And, finally, the tactics? For those you just need to look at the announcements Corbyn has made so far: renationalise the railways, 75 per cent top rate of tax, scrap tuition fees, decommission Trident, don’t intervene in Syria… I could go on and on.
In my own estimation I would probably have won the business had I pitched for it, because it mirrors Corbyn’s campaign. He has played it pitch perfect so far.
So how can the public affairs industry and businesses engage with a Leader of the Opposition and shadow chancellor who have no desire to make it to No.10 and No.11, who have no desire to listen or compromise, and who believe they are on a moral mission to undo the wrongs done to their party in the 1990s and early noughties?
The answer is simple. Understand their objective is to win back Labour’s soul and position. The party is embarking on another long struggle to define itself. To choose between principled opposition and compromise in government. Outsiders will struggle to have their voices heard and again Labour is looking inwards rather than outwards to the country’s challenges.
When you work in public affairs and comms you are often asked if there are any clients that you absolutely wouldn’t work for. Corbyn would be on my list.
Jo-ann Robertson is partner and managing director, corporate and public affairs, at Ketchum, and campaigned for the Labour Party