Some may be aware that I interviewed Nick Clegg recently and I have written this up as an interview here. However, this blog is about marrying the solution focused approach to politics and I styled my interview on solution focused questioning. I will therefore write up the interview explaining and discussing this from the SF point of view, which I think actually gives some interesting answers.
A key component of the SF approach, and the most famous technique, is the scaling question. It can be a powerful tool to gain specific and detailed information about how to improve your situation. I therefore wanted to use this with Clegg and see if it could be a useful tool with politicians. My premise was that the perceived relationship the electorate has with Nick Clegg is an important component of the success of the Lib Dem party come election time. PoliticalBetting has pointed out on numerous occasions that the best
pointer to the eventual outcome [is] the leader ratings [which are] far better than the voting intention polling
So first we need a base line. How does Clegg see his standing with the electorate? So the question started with ‘on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is that your relationship with the electorate is as good as it could be and is seen very positively and will lead the party to the best result and 0 is that your relationship with the electorate is seen as toxic and will be very bad for the party and you personally, where would you say it is on the scale?’
This would have given us an idea as to how he judges this at the moment. Such a question leads us to own our judgements, which is a powerful process in itself. However, he is a politician and the last time he gave a number he got into a lot of trouble so this was his answer:
I’m not going to give you a number because it think it is a completely artificial and synthetic way to grade something which is quite delicate actually, quite nuanced and quite different actually, so sorry I’m not going to give you a number. I don’t know how you can quantify this, I don’t work like that but I can give you my characterisation and then you can put a number on it.
So Clegg didn’t want to give a number and maybe this is wise politics but it is not engaging with the SF approach. But then we he has a right not to answer if he doesn’t want to. His main point in the characterisation was this:
the relationship between ourselves and the country has been very badly damaged over the last year and a half
So I went around the conference asking people where they thought the scale would be to which most people said 3 or 4 – so I’ll go with that as our scale. He then asked if it was recoverable, to which his answer was yes, he believed it was. The solution focused answer would also be yes, that wherever you are on the scale you can improve and move up the scale so long as you know how.
So considering he was saying that his relationship with the country could ‘recover’ (his choice of word) my next question was ‘in the future when this relationship has recovered, what will the nation see you or the party doing differently?’ His answers were:
- It will be different
- They will come to respect what we do
- There will be a fair minded respect
- Best possible motives
- Their [Lib Dems] hearts are in the right place
I clarified the question a little more as the question asked what he would be doing differently or what the party would be doing differently and his answers where what the nation would be doing differently. So I said ‘what would people see you or the party doing differently, specifically’. His answers were similar:
- Now I understand what their motives are
- Now I respect what they’ve done
His focus was again on what the nation would be doing differently, which was that they would be listening to what we are saying, rather than what he would be doing differently. I therefore went with where he was at rather than pushing this and asked the question ‘what can we do differently to get people to listen more, how do we as a party, or you as a leader communicate to the public so that they can listen to what is being said, in specific terms’, to which he said:
- Make ourselves available
- knock on doors
- a lot of face to face stuff
- speak in plain and simple terms
- travel around the country talking to people
- him to give people a script they can use on the door step
So while the interview seemed a little messy, there was limited time, and he had a lot of political points that he wanted to get over, I felt we ended up with a pretty good indication as to what he thinks needs to happen to start improving in the polls:
Which makes a lot of sense if we look at what works in political campaigning, which is – the ground war always wins so get people out knocking on doors and speaking to people and you are in with a better chance than any other method. Clegg is a man who knows his politics and the solution focused interview got out what he thinks we need to do as a party specifically, and I don’t think I have heard him talking about this stuff much in other interviews. So it could be possible that with more time and more SF questions we could end up with a very different message from our politicians?
I would love to know what other people think of this interview and for people to critique my interview from an SF point of view (if you know SF) so I can learn how to improve my interviewing with such a short amount of time.