Bashing the Daily Mail will kill off the Lib Dems: We need a smarter strategy on difficult papers
3 October 2011 8 Comments
It is very popular in the Lib Dems to bash the right wing media, particularly the Daily Mail. At conference we heard most ministers having a go at the Daily Mail and Nick Clegg particularly had some strong mocking words reserved for the paper. This seems a funny strategy considering the Daily Mail is the paper with the second largest Lib Dem readership, second only to the Sun. In fact the majority of Lib Dem voters read a right wing paper, so perhaps we should be looking at winning over more voters, not turning them away. So how do we do this?
Firstly for those who missed my post on Lib Dem readership here is a table showing the papers and how many Lib Dem readers they had in 2010:
In terms of strategy we can see it like this: There needs to be a seven fold increase in Guardian readers, or a 10 fold increase in Independent readers to make the same impact as 1% in Sun or Daily Mail readers. If we think our core vote is in the liberal papers and tailor our message to them, we will be in big trouble. A much better strategy would be to get a message which appeals to both. Perhaps this is impossible. But no one ever made any progress without some damn hard work which probably seemed impossible at the time.
Clearly there are many things the Lib Dems stand for that the Daily Mail are not going to like. It might also make us feel good to bash the Daily Mail. I certainly find the paper very difficult to read but there are not enough people out there willing to vote on the basis they hate a newspaper. They are more likely to pick it up and read it, even if they didn’t buy it or don’t like it.
However, there are messages that will appeal to the Daily Mail that are still grounded in Lib Dem values. We need to resist the baiting by the paper and right wing pundits and see opportunities. If we listen carefully we even hear them telling us how to tailor our message:
If the LibDems want to strike a pro-enterprise rather than anti-rich tone, then they need to get to grips with the nightmare of burdensome anti-business rules. They could even position themselves as the champions of small business in contrast to the Conservatives, who are often characterised as supporters of big business interests… In their own interests, not to mention those of the nation, the Liberal Democrats need to applaud and encourage economic success, not be seen to be hellbent on deterring it.
Who in the Lib Dems would disagree with being a party to support small business, supporting those who employ local people, supporting local communities and the country? Who in the party would disagree with opposing big business interests which serve shareholders rather than local people and communities? Who in the party wouldn’t want the Daily Mail to praise the Lib Dems for taking a stand on these issues? I doubt the Guardian or the Independent would disagree with such a position either.
When this government and opposition will live or die by the economic positions they take in the coming years, can we afford to have any paper suggesting that we are not doing what is needed to get this country back on its feet economically? Particularly one with such a large Lib Dem readership?
I am sure there are also other messages which would play well to the Daily Mail, and maybe they are even giving us good advice, it’s just no one in the party is reading it? Unfortunately, people who vote for the party are. We may not like the Daily Mail for the prejudice and hypocrisy that is found within it. But in a world of political strategy, this just means we need to be even more creative in our message.