Murnaghan 30.09.12 Interview Lord Glasman, Labour Peer and Rita Clifton, former Chairman Interbrand on 'Brand Miliband'

September 30, 2012


DERMOT MURNAGHAN: Now the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has said he’s not concerned by his poor performance in recent polls. Let’s talk about that and other issues a bit more because Ed Miliband’s biggest challenge at the Labour Party Conference this week in Manchester is to sell himself as a future Prime Minister so how can he define or redefine ‘Brand Miliband’? I’m joined now by Labour Peer and academic, Lord Glasman and by a former chairman of branding consultancy Interbrand, Rita Clifton. A very good morning to you both, thank you very much for joining us. Well let’s start with you, Lord Glasman, does Ed Miliband still need to let the public know more about him, about what he personally stands for and believes?

LORD GLASMAN: Yes, I think there’s a big misunderstanding, there’s been a big change because of this fixed term parliament thing with the government which is a loveless marriage held together by a hasty prenup which really slowly unravels. Ed’s got time to genuinely grow into the position and having, when he won the leadership election the dominant mainstream media narrative was unthinkable, last year it was implausible, this year is possible, next year will be compelling. You know, it’s a growing story of him and gradually building up trust within the party and then within the country.

DM: Within the party first so he’s still got a job to do within the party?

LG: No, I think the party job’s done, I think he’s done an extraordinary job of unifying the party, there is no threat to his leadership at all and he is very clear, he is the change candidate. What we have got is a very stuck government, a very orthodox government, roughly Thatcherite economics and socially liberal. Ed is actually the change candidate, they are talking about the changes we need in banking for example, changes we need in public reform so the brand is to be considered over a five year period and I think we’re in good shape. DM: Okay, the policies are starting to come out but Rita, personality is a huge part of this. We saw it perhaps at the last election, it is perhaps unquantifiable what those leadership debates, what effect those leadership debates, for the first time we saw the three party leaders there being grilled up on the platform. A lot of people make their decision based on what they see quite close to an election.

RITA CLIFTON: Absolutely. I mean people talk about party’s being voted in on police but of course that is patently not true. People pick up their cues and clues from a whole variety of things but particularly of course how people look, how they sound and then of course other stuff then gets in to support it but when you are building a personal brand the thing that matters most of all, just like any commercial brand, is how clear are you what you stand for. If you are not clear about what you stand for, you can’t then think about how you then project it through everything that you do.

DM: But isn’t Ed Miliband starting to do that? He is going to give us more of this at the conference, we’re told we’re going to hear more about his background and drawing that, there is effectively a class divide. We’ve got there the Conservatives termed as a bunch of toffs who went to public school and Miliband went to a comprehensive and from a family of originally immigrants so he is saying to the British electorate, I am more in touch with you.

RC: And clearly that is really, really important but it also still means that he is pretty unclear. People are a bit confused about what he stands for, he does feel a little bit weird, maybe a little bit unclear, a bit weak and 46% of Labour voters don’t think he is up for the job of Prime Minister. Now that’s a challenge. It’s not insurmountable but it’s a real challenge.

DM: It really is, Lord Glasman, isn’t it because there is a disconnect in these polls. Yes, an overall Labour lead but on so many of those personal leadership qualities, Miliband lags behind Cameron.

LG: Well the tremendous strength with David is the longer that you know him, the more you like him, that’s the person that he is and …

DM: Well you know him but the public don’t.

LG: No, no, but the longer I know him the more I like him and I think that what we’ve got to make the distinction between is this ambiguity and weakness that people perceive but also we’ve got to respect people who grow and Ed’s growing up in public. He is genuinely in a different position now than he was two years ago, he is much more attentive to private sector reform and public sector reform, he is much more genuinely patriotic in his instincts, I mean the Olympics had a really big effect on him, so he’s growing up and as he grows up that affection will grow with people.

DM: What would you do with him, Rita, in terms of this exposure? Do we like it looking at … there is an American election and we hear an awful lot about the backgrounds, the beliefs of American politicians. Do we like that in our politicians?

RC: Well yes and no and of course it depends what’s in there but the public have become a bit jaundiced about the X Factor thing, you know, the sob story thing and what have you. What really matters is whether or not people think that the person is up to the job so he needs his Clause Four moment, he needs the ‘we’ve got to do good housekeeping’ moment or the populous moment, he needs something that defines who he is and what he stands for. An alternative strategy of course is that you just basically try and duck and dive and let the others try and…

DM: That’s the pre-97 strategy perhaps from Blair but you wanted to come in on that point, Lord Glasman.

LG: That’s right but the other side of that is whether the person is in tune with the times, that indefinable thing about whether they actually represent the changes that we need. I think four years ago that was indisputably true of Obama, that he represented a change and he did that brilliant job of making McCain look like George Bush when in fact they were bitter enemies. Now the question is, can Ed define himself? I think that he can. In terms of being the change that we need… there’s a sense, an uneasy sense as ill-defined as the personality thing that we need a big change in the country, that finance is too powerful, that …

DM: We want a change but we have to be told what it is.

LG: Yes and a much more intangible thing is whether the person gets it, whether they get the kind of thing. Once you start talking policy, quite rightly people completely tune out because most of it is completely incomprehensible and based on dubious statistics but what they need to know is that there is going to be some fronting up to the domination of the bankers, that there is going to be some real change, that there is going to be some genuine trust in people for regional growth. It is much more about tone and it is much more …

DM: Okay and they are helped in that, aren’t they Rita, by a bit of foot shooting it must be said by the Conservatives, particularly with things like Andrew Mitchell-gate or whatever we’re calling it, when you want to characterise that party as full of toffs, well they couldn’t really do better could they?

RC: Absolutely. Of course yes, a party full of toffs but then you’ve got to think about what it is that Ed Miliband is going to do to characterise the Labour party and again what’s going to be the New Labour moment or the Clause Four moment or the huskies frankly in the Arctic Circle moment which …

DM: Which was derided but kind of worked.

RC: It did, it absolutely did, for a while and then of course the substance comes through but you’ve got to have an idea and I think Ed Miliband hasn’t been short of ideas, I think the challenge has been to try and ground those ideas and make them feel really practical. I mean what about pre-distribution? This is a theory.

DM: Indeed, I was going to raise the very same point.

LG: This is the growth of the position through time. So last year remember, everybody said, oh predatory and productive capital, what does that mean? Well that means there is a distinction between short term businesses that are speculative and long term businesses that genuinely generate value and now that looks like absolutely eminently sensible. Pre-distribution is our move away from tax and spend as the exclusive thing and looking at the internal …

DM: And do you really think that is a Clause Four moment that people can grab on to?

LG: No, it’s the politics of the common good, that’s where all of this is going and that’s the point. We are all in it together in a way that George Osborne can’t imagine because we value workers as well as bosses, we value both, north and south, immigrants and locals, faithful and secular, the politics of the common good.

DM: Mom and apple pie. Could that be packaged into a message that people can grasp on to and say this differentiates you and your party from the others? What do you think, Rita?

RC: I’m not feeling it at the moment because it all still feels a bit theoretical but …

LG: How about the common good thing?

RC: Well the common good thing, that’s a great idea, what does that mean for people because that’s immediately what the general public will be looking for.

LG: It would mean there would be workers and bosses in companies, more like the German idea, where there is a …

DM: The John Lewis model.

LG: The John Lewis model, the German model, these ideas where there is some respect for workers going on, the thing we have really neglected and that’s the politics of common good also speaks to great traditions in faith traditions, it’s something very meaningful and it is about bringing the interests on both sides together.

DM: If you really go through with that, that’s a fundamental restructuring of how the capitalist system operates in the UK, no more dividends being paid out to shareholders.

LG: No more dividends, a little bit less at the top, a little bit more at the bottom. Ed has always been committed to a living wage so it is a really radical change but it is also the change that we need.

DM: You were urging that but there’s an alternative strategy which they seem to be following at the moment, don’t they Rita, which is actually don’t say very much at all in terms of hard and fast policy. Look at what’s happening to the polls, we’re doing fine and all the focus is on the shortcomings of the opposition.

RC: And there are always two ways to win an election, either you just let the other guy fall over or otherwise you stand out there and you stand for something and you capture it in a way that really does galvanise people and that’s been the challenge. I think there is a strong idea in the theory of common good, it is about expressing it in a way that really grabs people.

LG: John Cruddas is head of the Policy Review and he is giving a talk this afternoon and I urge you to pay attention to that because he is a politician very much committed to that, that we’ve got to find a way of bringing people together to pursue the common good and that’s going to be a really ….

DM: Last word, Rita, we’re nearly out of time.

RC: I was going to say paying attention to things which is great again in theory but people have got busy lives, they need to pick up cues and clues really quickly, really simply and they’ll get their impressions from a whole range of stuff that comes across that way.

DM: Well we got some great impressions from you two, thank you very much indeed, Rita and Maurice, very good to see you.

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