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The 2015 General Election: Fundamental Implications for PA Consultancies and In-House Teams

Nick Williams, Senior Partner and Head of Public Affairs, FleishmanHillard London

The result of the May 7th General Election will bring a new Government, and with it significant challenges for anyone involved in public affairs, consultancy-based or in-house. Despite the fact public affairs changed long ago from simple lobbying to communications based upon strategic insight and engagement across multiple channels and platforms, an accurate view of stakeholder engagement remains key to the success of any campaign. In this light, the importance of Parliamentary backbenchers has, on average, been less effective as a mechanism to change Government policy. The next Parliament looks set to turn this assumption on its head.

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Now/Next/Why: What We Learned at Contagious’ Most Recent Event

Contributed by Catherine Cooke

On Tuesday, members of the FleishmanHillard team, and an array of client guests attended the Contagious: Now / Next / Why event at LSO St Luke’s in Shoreditch. The programme promised to look at how new technology is affecting marketing practices, and to give advice to ensure that the brands we all work for are equipped for survival in this rapidly changing industry.

Busy tables at Contagious event

Busy tables at Contagious’ April Now/Next/Why event.

So, what did we learn about making our clients’ brands future-proof?

Millennials value experiences more than physical things

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What the Manifestos Mean for Food, Agriculture and Sport

With yesterday’s SNP manifesto launch north of the border, the seven days of ‘Manifesto Week’ have drawn to a close. Much for political wonks like ourselves here at FH to chew over but, we would have to admit, little has emerged that purports to be any sort of ‘game changer’ that will boost the chances of one of the main parties getting the keys to Number 10. Our Food, Agriculture and Sport (FAS) team has been looking at what the manifestos mean for those sectors respectively.

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Friday TechMunch: What Are You Wearing?

Top of the early adopter shopping list, the wearables have well and truly arrived. Unfortunately, I won’t be strapping one on any time soon.

This isn’t because I don’t like watches, glasses or data-generating devices – on the contrary, my smartphone rarely leaves my immediate vicinity. No, the reason I won’t be investing in the latest Apple Watch, Galaxy Gear, Ring or Google Glass is because they simply aren’t useful enough yet.

apple-watch-faces

Don’t get me wrong, the potential is there, but at the moment they’re still a bit primitive: too big, too limited, too expensive.

Despite the purported sales (70m fitness trackers alone were sold in 2014) it seems that I’m not the only naysayer out there.

Research from Endeavour Partners recently found that one in three of US consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months. They also reported that even though one in ten American adults own some form of fitness wearable, half no longer use it.

This abandonment of the devices must be worrying for their developers. There are precious few early adopters of the smartphone who gave up on it a few months in…

What all of this suggests is that something’s still missing. Now maybe that something was the Apple Watch’s hypnotic jellyfish screen but, just possibly, it’s simplicity. The future of wearables may lie in the singular: wearable. It’s unlikely that we’ll be convinced to strap on a separate smartwatch, fitness tracker, Glass and calorie monitor every day, but if these technologies could be combined into a single, multifunctional gadget then it would stand a far greater chance of reaching ubiquity.

Creating this uber-wearable is only half the battle however. Once developed, if this device is going to make a real difference in our lives, it needs to be integrated. This is particularly important for the healthcare sector. Your doctor, hospital, physio and therapist should all be able to access the data from your device and use it to provide accurate, helpful diagnosis and advice. Even insurance companies should get a look in if you can use the data to prove your increased level of fitness and have them lower your payments.

Now all of the above examples would impact on a raft of privacy, legal and compliance issues that would need to be ironed out and securing all that data would certainly be a challenge. For a wearable to have some chance to staying-power on our wrists, heads or elsewhere, however, it really does need to be that smart.

This kind of secure integration and analysis of data is a worthy goal but not something a single brand can achieve. Only with collaboration between companies, industries and the medical practise will the wearable be able to provide the meaningful insights that will give us a reason to keep wearing them.

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FH Poll Position – Week Three

Welcome to the third edition of FH POLL POSITION, your weekly email update from FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs team in London.
POLL OF POLLSWeek three of the short campaign is almost over, and there still does not appear to be any clear breakthrough for either the Conservatives or Labour.The two largest parties in the UK have made their main pitches, through their manifestos, and the set pieces of the TV debates have come and gone. In terms of single events likely to feature on the most amount of people’s radars, this was the time to shine.Yet, according to the polls, the stars of Cameron and Miliband seem to be a little dull, with their campaigns lacking the sparkle to lead enough people to put an x in their box come May 7th. Britain is heading for another coalition, the makeup of which is still highly uncertain. Ed Miliband has had a good few weeks, with Labour widely seen to be running a competent and effective campaign. However, the risk remains that he will yet not get enough seats to avoid having to resort to a partnership with the SNP. On the other hand, although the Conservative Party manifesto contained some tempting gifts for their faithful followers, it is far from clear that this had any wider appeal.

If the polls show anything, it is that the Liberal Democrats appear to have sacrificed themselves for the greater good, heamorrhaging support in their South West heartlands – it may take an act of God to resuscitate the Lib Dem campaign. But miracles do happen!

Poll of polls 3

ODDS ON

With everyone sure there won’t be a clear majority – probably – it’s surely time to see what the betting markets think about the likely make up of our next government.

Interestingly, the shortest odds are for a minority government, which perhaps flies in the face of perceived wisdom. David Cameron has spoken openly about the possibility of him leading a minority Conservative government before, but whether this would provide the stability needed is another question. Perhaps what this shows is that a coalition with anyone but the Liberal Democrats is not favoured, as that would also not provide the long term stability needed for effective government. The one problem with this, and which is at odds with the polling, is that it looks like the Lib Dem will not have enough seats for either Labour or the Conservatives, requiring an arrangement with yet another party (or more) to reach an outright majority. It is also worth noting that a Conservative majority is still considerably more likely, according to this, than a Labour majority is. Some small comfort to any optimistic Conservative!

Odds on week three

DIVIDING LINE OF THE WEEK

This week the dividing line is less of a clear line and more like a smudge – a general summary of what the Liberal Democrat manifesto, and the policies contained therein, is. Like the other main parties, they launched their manifesto this week, with the broad feeling being that it was neither one thing nor t’other, but instead was focused on positioning the party as the compromise candidate, somewhere between Labour and the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats have a reasonable expectation that they might continue in Government after the election, regardless of who the Prime Minister is – so they clearly did not want to make too many enemies. Clegg openly admitted that only David Cameron or Ed Miliband would end up as Prime Minister, and claims to be the moderating force for either. Like something out of the Wizard of Oz, Clegg promised to give ‘a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one’ – and then offered this as a contrasting, more appealing, picture to one in which either the Conservatives are propped up by UKIP to the right, or Labour to the left by the SNP.

LEADER-O-METRE

In the aftermath of the ‘Challengers Debate’, Ed Miliband is perhaps beginning to nudge ahead of David Cameron. A Survation poll following the debate put Miliband in the lead for the Prime Ministerial contest for the first time, scoring 45% compared to Cameron’s 40%. Whether it was a good decision or not for Cameron to opt out of the last TV debate is arguable. All five leaders attacked him for his absence – but we will never know what may have happened if he had put himself in the firing line. In light of heavily coordinated pressure from the three female leaders (whose spontaneous embrace is trending today) directed at Ed Miliband, perhaps it will turn out to be a shrewd move.

Leader-o-metre week three.jpg

Nicola Sturgeon delivered yet another strong performance. Contrary to what the post-debate polls seemed to suggest, the media declared Nicola ‘hammered’ Miliband, playing nicely into the Conservatives’ narrative of Miliband marching to her drumbeat. To the amusement of twitter followers across the country, Farage received a cold reception, followed by a scolding from David Dimbleby when he turned on the audience. Nevertheless, he came out on top as the third victor of the debate, suggesting the attack and his hard stance on defence and immigrants struck a chord with his core supporters.

Only four million viewers tuned into BBC One’s election debate, which is two million less than the previous ITV and 1.2 million less than the amount of viewers who tuned in to watch the ITV soap Emmerdale, which aired at the same time. Nevertheless the #BBCdebate hashtag was used more than 400,000 times during the evening, unsurprisingly, making it the top trending topic of the night.

graphicMANY-FESTOS

The manifestos from the major parties range from the seriously worthy and policy heavy (Liberal Democrats), seriously unsurprising (Labour), serious-but-optimistic (Conservative), seriously angry (UKIP) and borderline hilarious (Greens) they were certainly a mixed bag. As political documents, the manifestos are all so detailed and policy-heavy that very few voters will read them – they alone will not swing the polls. The launch of a manifesto, however, is also a moment of political theatre. A positioning piece that allows the parties to make a fresh pitch, and showcase themselves to the electorate. It is also an opportunity to throw some meat to your activists – something to help inspire them to carry on as the election campaign grinds towards the finishing line.

Monday saw the launch of the Labour manifesto in Manchester. In a performance that was widely viewed as competent, even statesmanlike, Miliband presented Labour’s manifesto – a dull and unoriginal document which contained nothing not seen before apart from an open-ended commitment to cut the deficit year-on-year, but without specifying by how much or what their ultimate target was. The deficit commitment was a clear attempt to tackle sceptics of Labour’s economic credentials head-on – however, in being so loosely phrased, it risked marring an otherwise slick performance which was more about exposing Miliband to the electorate than the detail of what they promised. However, the scorn the Institute for Fiscal Studies poured on Labour’s plans (“Literally, we would not know what we were voting for if we were going to vote for Labour”), appeared not to dent an otherwise successful manifesto launch event, which lined up a relatively successful week.

In Swindon on Tuesday, the Conservatives attempted to jump-start a lacklustre campaign which had previously focused purely on the economy and leadership. In a statesmanlike performance which roamed across the international and domestic arena, Cameron unveiled a manifesto which attempt to offer a new, optimistic, vision for the future – and did so on the back of a series of largely uncosted policies on areas such as the NHS (£8bn extra funding by 2020), inheritance tax (increase the inheritance tax threshold for homes to £1m) and defence (maintain the armed forces at their current levels). Overall, this is a manifesto which will appeal to the activists, and Cameron turned in an effective performance. It was not obvious that this necessarily extended his appeal beyond those already likely to vote for him.

On Wednesday, the Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto from a trendy warehouse in London. Weighing in at fully double the length of the other parties – 160 pages next to closer to 80 pages for both the Tories and Liberal Democrats – the Liberal Democrats have spent a lot of time delivering a document, very little of which is likely to be achieved. In a decent performance marred only by equipment failures and his refusal to take more than one question from the press, Clegg made an explicit a pitch to be the next coalition partner, a moderating hand on an otherwise excessively rightwing Tory Party, or a Labour Party with no sense of fiscal responsibility. Noting that no one was going to get an overall majority, Clegg painted the options as a Conservative-UKIP coalition, a Labour arrangement with the SNP, or a Liberal Democrat agreement with either. Revealing a previously unseen side, Clegg indulged his inner Judy Garland – offering a ‘heart’ to the Conservatives and a ‘brain’ to Labour. He set five broad priorities which would form the basis for any Liberal Democrat arrangement with either side – which were so loosely formulated as to ensure the bar for success is set much lower than last time. This was a worthy, serious attempt at delivering a prospectus for the next five years. The problem for the Liberal Democrats is whether anyone is listening.

Also this week we saw the manifestos from the Greens and UKIP. Having already offered a leader who is capable of performances only the most credulous would buy, the Greens have clearly decided to double down and offer a manifesto in similar spirit. They appear to inhabit a slightly odd twilight world in which near-limitless sums of money can be extracted from places the other parties are either too stupid to spot or insufficiently bold/too capitalist to go after. Tax avoidance and rich people, in particular, appear to be regarded as piggy banks which can be raided at will ‘for the common good’. Consequently, in their own terms, all their policies were fully costed. Thankfully, as no one really believes they will be in a position to alter much after the election, the reality does not really matter. In similar spirit, UKIP offered a manifesto which majored on immigration, cutting international aid, and readjustment of the Barnett formula. In a nervy, sweaty, performance, Farage gave every impression of a man under some pressure – not helped when a question from the Telegraph’s Chris Hope triggered a near riot. UKIP are facing a declining market share, and, to judge by Farage’s recent performances (notably also at the television debate yesterday), are clearly deciding to focus on their base, holding what they have and turning it into seats. Their manifesto plays to this – without really trying to offer a serious programme for a Government which, realistically, they will not be involved in.

FROM OUR SCOTTISH CORRESPONDENT

13 polls since the Independence Referendum: 5 have “Yes” winning, 1 has a tie, and the others have “No” winning.

The Scottish nation is as divided as ever after the dramatic referendum last year, with the nation seemingly split down the middle. So what are the ramifications of this on the UK General Election?

For a start, there’s some evidence of people on the ground wanting to vote tactically, in an effort to stop the Nationalists. The almost 50% support, according to the polls, for the SNP, shows the sometimes curious results of the UK electoral system. The support of half the voting public could lead to near domination of the Scottish seats in Westminster. Tactical voting is one way to counteract this, but the mainstream parties (with the exception of the desperate Lib Dems) are not doing a lot to help their beleaguered foot soldiers to coordinate this, leading to considerable confusion as to what the plan is.

Amongst unionists there are significant numbers now who are less worried about being governed by Labour or the Tories, and more bothered about the constitutional future for Scotland – the question that everyone is asking being: who do I need to vote for to stop the Nationalists? If the main UK parties, and the Scottish electorate, do not want the trauma of another referendum in the near future, there needs to be some central coordination from the party leaderships, instead of blindly hoping the SNP will go away – they won’t!

Thank you to Margaret Smith, Director of Edinburgh-based Caledonia Public Affairs – www.caledoniapa.com.

FROM THE FRONT LINE

Over the previous two editions we’ve focused this section on reactions to the ‘glamorous’ end of the front line, door knocking. But there’s another part of the campaign trail that’s equally important – the humble leafleting.

The political parties spend thousands of pounds, if not millions, on newsletters, cards and general paraphernalia that depends on thousands of willing volunteers pounding the pavements: alone, wet, tired and with no personal interaction (at least that’s what many hope for).

This week I find myself in a major city in the South West, full of hope for what would be a rewarding and worthwhile day of political interaction, discussion and debate.

Rocking up to the local HQ I was greeted by one of the largest piles of newsletters you will ever see. It seems I will have to make do with dropping letters through the doors instead of engaging with people…..maybe they saw me coming. Handed a map and a bag (you’re too kind), that was it. Even though this was the place I went to University, I had no idea where this God-forsaken place was I was being sent off to on the outskirts of the city. Directions? No chance. Follow your nose and hope the 10% of iPhone battery will ensure the Satnav can get you to the right place.

So, arriving at the street (yes, it was just one street, with 500 newsletters), I set to it. Below are a few things you should know about political leafleting:

i) Number one has to be dogs. Who knew a ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign could strike so much fear into a grown human being. This is the one and only time you convince yourself to just chuck it through the letter box, hope it goes in and make sure you get your hands out before the barks getting ever closer from inside turn into a bite…

ii) Bloodied hands. Not related to the dogs (hopefully). It may just be me but the amount of cuts on a hand after a good day’s leafleting is not even funny. Those letter boxes are dangerous things.

iii) Opposition posters in windows. Deep breath. These are the only houses you don’t even bother putting anything through – what would be the point? So, you find yourself holding your breath as you walk/run straight past, hoping they haven’t seen you with your party-branded bag. Survived? Phew, move on.

iv) Opposition leaflets still in the letterbox. Gold dust. Is it sad that this actually brings a smile to one’s face?! The first thing you learn when canvassing – if the other side have been stupid enough to not push their material through the letter box, respectfully and, with great grace, remove said item from the letterbox and replace with yours. Making sure to push it all the way through. You’re doing the poor residents a favour after all……

v) The backOh the back. I’m under 30 and my back is KILLING ME with all this bending down – how is that possible?

All of this is topped off by the thought you have at the outset, throughout the dreary walk, and at the end. Absolutely no one is going to read this. No one. Why? Why? Why am I doing this?

And this brings us to the purpose – leafleting is not about that, really. It’s about brand recognition. It’s about residents seeing your name, seeing your picture and seeing your party branding (in all cases apart from the Lib Dems). It’s a chance for your candidate to get through the front door and into people’s lives so that, come May 7th, they’ll recognise the name on the ballot box. And if your opposition hasn’t bothered with that particular house? So much the better. It’s a competition after all.

HACKED OFF

A mixed bag of lines, much like the week.

“The only thing I missed, out on the road to cover the general election, was the general election.” – Philip Collins , The Times.

“Nicola Surgeon has hijacked the 2015 election. Where she’s taking it is anyone’s guess.” – Dan Hodges, The Guardian.

“The only certainty is that ‘white van man’, once parked on the hard shoulder of politics, is back in the driving seat on the road to power.” – Mary Riddell, Daily Telegraph

DON’T FORGET

Next week will see the start of a series where various ministers and their shadows argue it out on BBC 2’s Daily Politics. If you’re not doing anything interesting in the middle of the day, check it out. If you’re at work, you decide whether watching a bunch of politicians discussing policy is more entertaining than your your day job.

You can follow us on our new election twitter channel @FHUKPolitics where some witty or insightful comment may be made.

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Social Media Reacts to Televised Challengers Debate

At the conclusion of this evening’s challengers political debate, communications and public affairs consultancy FleishmanHillard (@FHUKPolitics) has produced social media analytics charting online reactions to the Party leaders and topics discussed.

Nicola Sturgeon won the debate, the FleishmanHillard Social Analytics team has found, after analysis of exchanges on twitter.

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Politics of Big Data

Contributed by Elaine Lau

The Guardian asked “How Digital is the 2015 election?” this week. The Evening Standard declared that 2015 will be “the year social media wins the General Election”. One thing is clear: social media and digital strategies will very much play a role in currying favour for the main political parties. Tapping into this surge of interest in social media sentiment, FleishmanHillard client TCS has launched a new smartphone app, ElectUK, designed to help voters identify, track and share trends ahead of the May 2015 General Election.

TCS has data-crunched more than 4.6 million tweets to offer a revealing window on how voters feel about candidates, parties and those key election issues. For example, the Economy is currently the most talked about election topic having received 29% of all mentions, followed by Employment (24.3%) and Health (15.6%). The have also been more negative conversations about the Economy (27%) than there were positive conversations (21.7%) across the country.

One of the features that most distinguishes ElectUK is its ‘Compare Politicians’ function. Here is an example of how sentiment is split between three of the main party leaders:

image2image1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From relatively unstructured data, the app presents positive and negative sentiments for each of the 3 politicians against each other across the last 24 hours. It shows you which election topics were most associated with each politician and how people feel about each politician. There is also an option to look back over either a week or a month to see how opinions about the politicians have changed over time.

As the global agency for TCS, FleishmanHillard’s London team has been working closely with TCS to support the development of the ElectUK app, create supporting content and promote the app through traditional and social media channels.

With more than thirty percent of people aged 18-24 saying that their vote will be influenced by social media content, David Cameron’s statement that “too many tweets might make a tw*t” could seem distinctly out of touch with the electorate. Up until mid-March, there were 21 million interactions about the May 2015 General Election on social media. ElectUK is capitalising on Twitter to spread news, shape debate and predict outcomes leading up to May 7th.

Follow @ElectUK on Twitter. The app is free to download on both Apple and Android devices.

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FH Poll Position – Week Two


Welcome to the second edition of FH POLL POSITION, your weekly email update from FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs team in London.

POLL OF POLLS

As ever, we look first to the polls. There has been slight movement to Labour, but overall no side has pulled ahead significantly and due to the margin of error anyone could take the lead. The mood amongst the major parties this week has been relatively buoyant, with the exception of UKIP who have seen a further squeeze on their vote and the real possibility that Farage may not win the South Thanet Seat. Labour has been boosted by a series of positive polls which puts them – just – ahead of the Conservatives in the poll of polls. On top of this Lord Ashcroft’s polls of marginal seats have shown that the Labour still is pulling away from the Conservatives in the seats that matter. To compound this result the polling has shown that in the marginals Labour is winning the “ground war” with on average 10% more people receiving campaigning material from Labour as from the Conservatives. With the polls so tight, this could cost the Conservatives the election.

Last week’s leadership debate did not move the polls, so next week we are looking to the launch of the main parties manifestos. Will these give the parties the spurt they need to draw ahead, or will this campaign be remembered for both parties staying neck and neck. The only thing we can predict in this race is that whoever we wake up with on May 8th may not be the party we went to bed with….

Poll of polls 2

DUP AND COMING

While the media have been obsessing with the latest manoeuvers of the SNP, another force has been developing – this time in Ireland. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have been quietly building their strength and securing their own position ahead of potential coalition dealings – it seems with the support of the Conservatives. The DUP currently have 8 seats and have agreed a joint Ulster Unionist Party/DUP candidate in another four constituencies.  This will help them bolster their chances to gain more seats. Interestingly the Conservatives, who unlike Labour, actually stand candidates in Northern Ireland, are only contesting 16 of the 18 Northern Irish seats. The two seats they are not fighting, Belfast North and Fermanagh and South Tyrone, are two of the seats in which there is a unionist alliance. Although the Conservatives were never going to win these seats, this suggests that the Conservatives are clearly looking to the DUP to support them after the election, and want to boost their chances of taking and keeping seats, in the hope that they will return the favour in the long days of negotiations.

ODDS ON

Roll up! Roll up! Place your bets please ladies and gents! This week Nick’s PA blackboard brings you the current state of the betting markets. Despite the polls, the betting markers still predict that the Conservatives will take the most seats, between 281-285; however, over the past week the gap between Labour and the Conservatives has slightly narrowed, so there is everything to play for from now until the election.

Odds on week two

DIVIDING LINE OF THE WEEK

It’s a toss-up between two clear contenders: the scrap over non-doms, or the slightly more personal row that erupted over Trident. Perhaps it’s best to think of them as the same argument… more of that later.

Either way, there is plenty of smelly mud in the air – whether any of it sticks is another question. Labour and the Conservatives are showing that perhaps British politics is more polarised than we all thought, at least superficially.

LEADER-O-METRE

In the wake of the leaders debates, FleishmanHillard’s social media analysis showed that the leaders viewed most positively were Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood, in that order. The supposed triumph of the female ‘progressive’ leaders against the pale, stale and male establishment was hailed in some quarters – the Guardian suggested that it was only “the female participants who actually responded to what they were hearing and who seemed to be living in the moment”. Sturgeon had an excellent debate – her performance has justifiably attracted praise. Bennett and Wood, however, were mediocre. Bennett, in particular, was clearly a beneficiary of low expectations – having until then turned in such a car-crash of media moments that as long as she stayed upright and spoke in full sentences, she was always likely to get a pass. The reality is that the debates were pretty much what Cameron wanted – a score draw, with no breakthrough moment.

This week, normal political life appears to have reasserted itself. Miliband, in particular appears to have had a reasonable week. Others have had a more mixed ride, however. Of the four main UK-wide leaders only Farage has increased his footprint this week – this could be indicative of the increased exposure afforded the minor party leaders following the debates. However, Farage’s performance last week was controversial, with his reference to immigrant HIV sufferers certainly not helping him to attract more supporters – though it is unlikely to have put off existing supporters. The press coverage of UKIP this week has been mixed, at best, with many focusing on their apparently shambolic campaign and the failings of their candidates. Not all coverage is good coverage …

Leader-o-metre week two.jpg

ANALYSIS

Labour opened by promising to abolish the ‘non domicile’ rules under which select groups of UK residents are only taxed on their UK, instead of worldwide, income. As the day wore on and the Tory defensive machine got into gear, Labour appeared to back-pedal into announcing a consultation on tightening the rules instead. The detail of the ‘residence and domicile’ tax rules are complicated and, frankly, irrelevant. Almost certainly, very few people will have understood much beyond the general intent to clamp down on rich people and possible tax avoiders. However, in narrative terms, the link with Labour’s previous noises on avoidance is clear, and the tactics are the same – Labour launches a policy aimed at a complicated bit of the tax code that no one understands. They paint themselves as the party of ‘fairness’ determined to stand up for ordinary people against the rich people whom the Tories have gone easy on. As a tactic, this helps to push the Conservatives on the defensive – but is itself unlikely to win over people who were not thinking of voting Labour anyway.

The Conservative response was, to borrow a metaphor from the playbook of Australian politics, to throw a dead cat onto the table. This refers to the use of a tactic so shocking and potentially tasteless that it forcibly moves the conversation on – even at the expense of some nausea from all who witness it. In this case, the proverbial dead feline was a putative SNP-Labour agreement to abolish Trident in return for Miliband getting to be Prime Minister. Michael Fallon, the Conservative Defence Secretary, sought to portray Miliband as someone so craven, dangerous, untrustworthy and yet ruthless for power that he would literally stop at nothing to become Prime Minister. He had knifed his own brother – he would have no problem with dismantling the defences of the UK if that was what it took. There is some inconsistency in the Tory messaging on this – they cannot quite seem to make up their minds whether Miliband is Frank Underwood or Jim Hacker. Logically, Miliband cannot be both the devil incarnate and a weak, rudderless, misfit. And their attack was so personal it evoked Miliband’s 2013 skirmish with the Daily Mail over his father, which actually ended up winning him widespread sympathy. Miliband, therefore, ends the week with the moral high ground. However, the Conservatives end with the focus back on him and his leadership. Time will tell who is better-placed.

TOP OF THE TWEETS

Slightly higher numbers compared to last week. Sadly, looking at the top tweets below, is there a single positive message in there? And is the impact of Farage’s comment on HIV any better than tweets about Joey Essex?

Top of the tweets week TWO

FROM OUR SCOTTISH CORRESPONDENT

“The political landscape in Scotland has been different to the rest of the UK for many years now, but never will the 59 Scottish seats be more critical to the overall outcome than this time round. Labour are defending a hearty 41 seats from 2010 and the still avowedly pro-UK-break-up SNP just six. But since 2010, the SNP have stormed to a landslide in the Scottish Parliament and played the referendum NO vote like winners. They have been rewarded with 80000 new members and an influx of activists and resources that make eyes water amongst the other parties.

Scottish polls this year have consistently shown an SNP lead in the low to mid 40s% – with Labour barely making it past 30%. The Lib Dems have yet to see double figures, and the last Westminster poll showed them on a dismal 3% which would see them wiped out in May. The Scottish Conservatives have maintained a steady position in the mid to high teens with campaigners in marginal seats complaining the core Tory vote is notoriously hard to squeeze.

Some evidence of anti-SNP tactical voting is starting to emerge in seats which voted heavily No last September, such as in Gordon, to try and stop former SNP leader Alex Salmond.

SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to make coy overtures to Ed Miliband, using emotive language like ‘locking David Cameron out of Downing Street’. Labour’s able Scottish leader, former UK Cabinet Minister Jim Murphy, struggles to put clear water between his battle-weary offering and the shiny new toys being offered to a UK audience by the SNP. The media reaction from this week’s leaders’ debates was that no-one scored a direct hit, although Nicola Sturgeon appeared less comfortable than the parallel UK leaders’ event last week.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are as battered in Scotland as they are elsewhere and will struggle to hold even 3 or 4 of their 11 seats. The Tories might just hang onto their sole MP, David Mundell, and could snatch a second seat from former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. And, of course, we have barely a hint of UKIP in Scotland. For now…”

Thank you to Devin Scobie, Director of Edinburgh-based Caledonia Public Affairs – www.caledoniapa.com.

FROM THE FRONT LINE

This week a brave front line observer reports from one of Labour’s 106 battleground target seats in this election, Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Liberal Democrat incumbent Simon Hughes, who has sat for various Bermondsey seats since a by-election in 1983, is being contested by Labour’s Neil Coyle. While the Ashcroft poll suggests Lib Dems might just hold onto this seat, it’s going to be a tight race and the Labour campaigning team is bursting with confidence. One local Labour councillor predicts a Labour win by 2500 votes (but refused to bet on it..)! Here’s what the people on the doorstep had to say:

“Simon Hughes is a good MP and it would be difficult to shift him. He knows me by name and calls me up to find out how I am doing and to see if I’ll vote. We see him here all the time.” – To Labour’s detriment, Simon Hughes is much liked by his constituents while our doorstep conversations would suggest the opposite can be said about the Labour-led council…

“I always voted Labour and I don’t know why. Politics bores me.” – Despite aforementioned boredom, this constituent proceeded to take two party posters for their front window.

“I wouldn’t vote Labour because they’re planning to hop into bed with the SNP. It’s not right that Scotland should decide on our future.”  – This is proving to be one of the most successful attack lines deployed by the Tories, receiving considerable traction on the doorstep.

“I watched the debate and liked Ed Miliband. He seems like a nice, decent man.” –  many have expressed the same view since the first leaders’ televised event. Considering Ed ‘Happy Warrior’ Miliband’s dismal leadership score prior to the event, his approval ratings could only get better, and they did. Miliband appears more human as can be seen from a YouGov poll earlier this week, which shows “meaningful shift” in the public’s perception of the Labour leader.

On Tony Blair – “That man is not to be trusted.” Probably not the reception Labour hoped for when they recruited Tony as this week’s face of the party. His grand rhetorics may be inspiring to some, but they failed to strike a chord with the public of SE16.

“Why should those born outside of Britain get council homes, when my children won’t get put on the housing list?” – variants of this quote are quite a common sentiment on the doorstep, often accompanied by hot anger or a few tears. The advantage immigrants take of the welfare system, perceived as highly unjust by many, is a frequent point of discussion.

After months of relentlessly pounding the pavements, there is finally a noticeable shift in the public’s interest in the election. Canvassing, just like our leaders debates, are a crucial part of our democratic system, and although it’s hard to tell what difference, if any, the short campaign actually makes in swaying the voters, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

HACKED OFF

The FT are on form – and a woman with more one-liners than Arnie.

“Political apathy is a mark of civilisation. Boring elections are proof of national success” – Janan Ganesh , Financial Times

“If this man is prime minister I will leave the UK. This man is not Great Britain. This is Russell Brand in a chuffing suit” – Katie Hopkins, referring to Ed Miliband on Twitter. Not strictly part of the mainstream media, but it’s a great line!

“Think of the prime minister as a wartime bomber pilot: if he manages to drop a few incendiaries somewhere near the target and make it back to base in one piece, then it is mission accomplished.” – Tim Bale, Financial Times

DON’T FORGET

The snappily titled “Challengers’ Debate” is on 16th April. It doesn’t involve tanks or anyone from “Gladiators” – which is possibly a shame. There’s probably not a lot else on, it’s a Thursday in spring.

You can follow us on our new election twitter channel @FHUKPolitics where some witty or insightful comment may be made.

 

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Friday TechMunch: Art or Science? Big Data in Football

Contributed by Thomas McCaldon

Last year, IDC predicted that 44 zettabytes of data will be created by 2020 – to put that figure into context, it’s roughly the equivalent of 40 billion years of video. No wonder people talk about ‘Big Data’.

Thankfully, organisations around the globe are putting it all to good use and doing plenty of smart things with the stuff, even in spaces that you might not traditionally associate with technological innovation. A case in point: football.

Last week, the Football Association (FA) in England announced they were turning to data to improve national performance in the long term. In a bid to develop more home-grown players, clubs are now sharing information on growth and maturation to ensure that young, would-be stars are not discarded before they have the opportunity to realise their full potential.

Football doesn’t always come across as the most high-tech of sports. Sure, they recently installed on-pitch cameras to help determine when the ball actually crosses the goal line, but the most visible innovation this year has been the introduction of cans of magically-disappearing shaving foam into referees’ arsenal. The FA initiative to enhance player development, however, is just one example of how data is revolutionising the modern game.

When Germany won the World Cup in 2014, a number of commentators were quick to point out the somewhat unexpected 12th man the team had on their side: Big Data. Using tools which analysed video footage from on-pitch cameras and delivered advanced performance metrics, the Germans leveraged data-driven insights to perfect their play throughout the competition.

Their performance against Brazil, for instance, was a striking demonstration of the speed and directness which characterised the team’s approach. This was due in no small part to their behind-the-scenes analysis of possession time statistics, which drove a reduction in the team’s average time on-the-ball from 3.4 seconds to just 1.1.

Such innovation isn’t only within reach of national teams. TSG Hoffenheim, of the German Bundesliga, have incorporated real-time data measurements into training sessions by attaching tracking sensors to balls, goalposts, players’ legs, and anything else considered important. As a result, coaches are able to develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of individual players driven by statistics rather than gut feeling.

Adopting such a scientific approach is surely laudable, particularly when the alternative is to call for greater commitment, passion, and any number of other intangibles. However, as number-crunching looks set to become central to success on the football pitch, there has been criticism within other sports, notably cricket, of approaches that overly rely on insights from data. At what point, it has been asked, do you put your trust in people rather than numbers?

The trick, it seems, is in how the data is used. Technology will certainly not win a match on a team’s behalf. But, it can be harnessed effectively behind the scenes to analyse, inform, and enhance what teams do. As the growing volume, richness, and accuracy of data enables coaches to take tactics, training, and development to new highs, data analytics applied intelligently can only be good for the sport.

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FH Poll Position – Week one

Welcome to the first edition of FH POLL POSITION, your weekly email update from FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs team in London.
POLL OF POLLS

First things first – the polls! What’s striking is the consistency of the Labour vote over the last six weeks. Unfortunately for them, it is consistently underperforming for an Opposition Party this close to the General Election. And at this rate, Nick Clegg – the only member of the current Cabinet to have an industrial seat, could be about to lose it – everyone and their dog will be looking toward South Yorkshire to see if Clegg has his ‘Portillo moment’. We think he might.

Poll of pollsODDS ON

We’re sure you like a flutter – but what are the odds? Here are the latest, should you be thinking of taking a punt this Easter. As you can see from Nick Williams’ PA blackboard, if you put £100 on Labour getting a majority, you’d get £162.50 back, whereas £100 for the Conservatives would get you £144.44 back. The Labour odds are somewhat different to the political ones offered this week by the Conservatives’ Party Chair Grant Shapps, who got skewered on Newsnight by Evan Davis after saying that a gamble on Labour wouldn’t get you anything back – in fact, you’d be down £3k. Davis argued it would be more like £100, according to independent figures. Share the awkwardness here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGaTm2epsAQ

Odds on week one

DIVIDING LINE OF THE WEEK

Simply this –  100 business people, most of whom were always going to vote for the Conservatives wrote a letter saying they were going to vote for the Conservatives. Labour’s retort was clever: 100 ordinary people from various public sector jobs (and the obligatory Hampstead luvvies) said that they would support Miliband. Although not as spun as the Conservative letter, Labour’s retort took the sting out the event mostly by being quick off the mark. It also highlighted what the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire said should be a key message for voters: “don’t vote according to a letter in the Telegraph, vote for you”. 

LEADER-O-METRE

Yes, we have graphs! Here’s David Cameron riding high with 240,802 social media mentions in the last seven days with David Miliband just a few tweets down. Showing his ability to garner exposure that goes way beyond the size of his electoral base, Nigel Farage has almost twice as many mentions as Nick Clegg.

Leader-o-metre week one

ANALYSIS

It certainly doesn’t have the fervor of 2010. Not many posters are up, few garden stakes and people are still chatting about the latest reality TV shows than the reality of a potential change in Government. But it’s early days. The campaigns now feature epic spikes in the form of the TV debates and it’s almost as though the punters are waiting on those to spark it all into life. As we remind you below, the main one is at 8pm tonight – the only chance to see Cameron debating with the other party leaders. As there are 7 of them and thus will have just a small amount of air time, he should feel confident that the chances of making a mistake will be limited. But the consensus is that Miliband performed better in last week’s rather anachronistic grilling by Jeremy Paxman. In that interview, he seemed stronger, more at ease, and tough. He needs to – his perception as a posh nerd from NW3 remain strong among the public. Cameron appeared evasive and astonishingly ill at ease for a man who can so easily communicate clearly. Under some pressure is Nigel Farage, who is about to experience the latter end of the British media’s unique skill at building people up and then crushing them to dust. For the Liberal Democrats, May will be a sad time but one for positive reflection on a broadly successful Coalition and some key policies realized into law. The Liberal Democrats need some time to work out who they are, who they want to appeal to and rebuild that once formidable powerbase of local volunteers – at one point, it was said you were never more than a metre away from a Lib Dem leafleter. Now, it’s just rats. However, Clegg did very well in the 2010 debate, and this is his opportunity to spark some life into proceedings.

TOP OF THE TWEETS

Well, they’re not setting twitter on fire yet. For example, Miliband dominated last week with 1,700 re-tweets for a polite thank you. Surprisingly, Cameron scored well with a video about the NHS and, no, we didn’t watch it either. Meanwhile, Nick Clegg came last with a rather surreal tweet thanking Joey Essex for meeting him. Is it that bad? Yes!

Top of the tweets week one

FROM OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

Thank you FleishmanHillard Berlin for their wry observation on how the election is being perceived in Germany.

“There are two issues prevailing in the German debate about the UK elections: who will come out as the winner and what would an EU exit of the UK mean for Germany?

“As the latest polls do not seem to predict an absolute majority for any of the parties, German media focuses on two candidates, Cameron and Miliband. While the first one is considered a hardliner whose campaign is about social cuts and an EU referendum, the latter is perceived as a soft, reserved intellectual who will be unable to prevail.

“With the UK being the second largest economy in the EU and London being an outstandingly important economic and financial hub, many concerns are raised in Germany on a possible EU exit. Industry and politics mostly expect negative implications on employment and growth if the UK was not part of the European Single Market anymore. Politically, London is perceived as a key ally for Berlin in Europe when it comes to issues like the importance of competitiveness and a general liberal economic orientation of the political agenda”. 

FROM THE FRONT LINE

We’ve asked one ‘high-flying’ candidate to anonymously give us his view of the election from the perspective of the political frontline. In other words, meeting the public. This is the poor soul’s first war report.

“People in various states of (un)dress; the occasional attack dog that’s a taste for fingers through the letterbox; blank faces and the occasional expression of “very firm views” – campaigning for a political party is never dull.

“Visiting residents door to door is a peculiarly British tradition. Observers from other European nations always tend to think it’s slightly mad, but I think it’s one of the main ways of keeping our democracy in touch with the people we’re keen to work on behalf of.
People don’t realise the amount of information that political parties have access to. When I knock on your door, I’ll know your name, who else is registered at the address, whether we’ve talked to you previously (going back to 1992 in some cases), what you told the previous campaigner, and even which elections you have cast your ballot in – though not, of course, for which party.

Here’s how campaigning “on the #labourdoorstep” is looking at the moment, boiled down to the key conversations, some perennial, and some specific to this election:

1) “You only ever call at an election” – people tend to have a broad view of this; in a key seat I volunteer in, there are elections every May and this question starts as early as October.

2) “We never see you around here” – this is an oft-repeated refrain, as you stand very tangibly at their doorstep, safe in the knowledge that it says on the canvass sheets they were called upon at least once in the last six months, and have had a leaflet delivered in the meantime…

3) “How much do you get paid to do this?” – oh would that we were. They say democracy isn’t cheap, but it is based on hundreds of thousands of hours of voluntary time from very dedicated activists who believe in their political goals.

4) “That Gordon Brown sold all the ******* gold” – this has to be one of the most effective attack lines deployed in recent years, and still comes up today, despite it being not (entirely) true. To be fair, he used it to buy Euros. Oh..

5) “I’m very worried about the NHS” – this is a hugely effective campaign by the Labour Party that chimes with people’s experience of the service and what they read in their local press – expect this to be a cornerstone of the Labour Party campaign as it comes up on the doorstep all the time.

6) “they’re all the same” – this may come down to the fact that the three main party leaders are about the same age, same ethnicity, same family structure as it’s pretty well established that this election is more polarized than in decades.  One resident recently said “that Ed Miliband, he went to Eton, he goes on about it all the time”, which is an interesting view given he went to a North London comprehensive.

7)  “I voted LibDem last time, what a mistake that was” – sadly for the LibDems, this is a rather common view on the doorstep…

8) “I joined the Greens recently, but I’m still voting Labour” – ???!

9) “you can have this back” – I’ve never understood people who walk down the street after you to give back a leaflet you posted. It’s passion of some sort I suppose…

10) “don’t waste your time here love, we’re all labour and always have been” – God bless these people (and would you please take a poster?).

General Elections are stimulating and exciting times to be a political campaigner – it’s the one time every five years that voters are genuinely engaged with the political process, and in the main do have a view about how they want the country to be run. Long may our tradition of doorstep conversations continue!”

HACKED OFF

The lobby’s finest are in great form. Here are the latest highlights.

“OK, screw the election. Cagney & Lacey are on” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph

“Tonight is a bad Christmas carol: 34 days to go, 7 political leaders, 4 snaaaaaap polls. What I wouldn’t give for a partridge in a pear tree” – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times

“Love that new Twitter arrival @BorisJohnson only following 2 people. One of them is David Cameron. Of course, Boris aims to follow Cameron” – Iain Martin, Daily Telegraph

DON’T FORGET

It’s the TV Debate tonight 8pm to 10pm on ITV. Alternatively, other channels are offering: “Criminals Caught on Camera”, “Glasgow’s Killing Streets”, “Life and Death Row” and “Masterchef”.

Have a great Easter and we will be back after the UK Bank Holidays. In the meantime, follow us on our new election twitter channel @FHUKPolitics

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