I thought there was something of interest in the comments section of a previous post. The original post was on the UUP conference but it expanded out into a wider discussion on policy engagement by political parties generally. Some points were made which I think are worth developing further.
I’ve paraphrased some comments as below, then followed those with action points:
- Membership of organisations is in decline – impressions from the centre is that branches must fundraise without great influence into policy or direction.
- It is worrying that political power is being centred in the hands of a few rather than being sustained by the many.
- Central parties seem to give greater credence to focus groups and polls than to their own membership.
- Policy is often light as it hasn’t really been debated, merely deduced.
- A centralising party is all the more distant from its grassroots, less willing to listen.
- Increase of overtly centralised control and the marked reduction in political activism (a slide in members & voters) are related?
- Political parties have conflated ‘talking from the front’ with policy engagement.
ACTION POINTS ON CONFERENCE
- Record your own content, edit it, shape it and distribute it yourself – the party should view itself primarily as the main broadcaster.
- Digital media offers opportunities for parties to satisfy media & activists, and to bring the big event closer to activists. The capacity to broadcast and to stream content live places the political Party in the driving seat.
- Taking primacy in your content would wrest dependence away from traditional media, wrest the agenda away from media managers, and provide the freedom to bring your event closer to activists.
- Parties could distribute self-generated content themselves via email, via online video streaming, via blogs, via websites.
ACTION POINTS ON ENGAGEMENT
- Party press people should be talking to digital marketing specialists – when they gather in that resource it will allow the voice of the ordinary member to be heard much more clearly.
- The politically active are active online – parties must segment and target content then distribute directly to this audience.
- Political renewal will come when centralised control is diluted in favour of greater grassroots empowerment.
- Parties must engage outside the formal conference. Host a Saturday debate on a single issue, listen to outsiders, allowing a lot more members to express their views, and not be limited by a conference timetable.
- Take a policy every month or six weeks and explore it online, in speeches, internally and in the public square, rather than storing up all their tinder for the manifesto.
The above should not be read as criticisms of any particular or intended for any party in particular.
I’m going to send this post along with links to some of the other great posts uploaded here to Unionist MLAs. Perhaps they might find this information useful, and perhaps they would like to engage further.