Friends, Romans, Countrymen….Lend me your Shoes
To succeed in politics takes a lot of hard work and a lot of strategy. After years of campaigns and organising, these days I’m quite happy not to be in the trenches. It would take something pretty special to tempt me back into that game. Why? Because it’s relentless hard work and endless commitment if you want to organise a party or a campaign properly.
Now, the thing is these days I am often a bit of a grumpy old dinosaur. Being brutally honest, I am sick to the back teeth of listening to whippersnappers talking about Obama, Blair, Cameron and the lessons from these stellar campaigns. Every time somebody talks about elections or parties there is somebody being flown in from America or the UK who has a whole load of wonderful things to teach us about modern politics. It’s a load of old tosh. There I said it. These ‘experts’ haven’t got the first clue of how Irish politics works. They would be lost within a week and anytime they get involved in a campaign it seems to unravel in about that space of time. Politics in countries of 250 million or 80 million is very different to what it is here. In such places many people never even see their politician in the flesh. Campaign workers are only of use during the campaign there is nothing like the ’embedding’ in society that is required in Ireland. The reason for this is that with a small population, you can reach pretty much everybody personally.
Yes you need a good TV campaign. Yes you need a good Radio presence. Yes you need strong social media. But the whole lot of it is absolutely useless without organisation that can reach right into communities. A newspaper column or a TV show will not influence your local voters like the neighbour that they trust and respect can. That’s why you need that neighbour on your side. Irish Parties in a rush to try employ new tactics have slowly but surely started to forget this and that is part of their greatest weakness today. ‘Experts’ will always tell you the brilliance of their high level strategy….otherwise you wouldn’t pay then the big fat fee to come up with your slogan.
Nothing can replace the power of the properly organised canvass. There is not a person in Ireland who did not shake hands, or have the opportunity to shake hands, with Bertie Ahern. Irish politicians still operate in a system where it’s possible to meet everyone. A couple of degrees of separation are all that exist between us and any Taoiseach at any given time. If you don’t understand how Irish political organisations developed and thrived then there is no point in applying new systems or messages. Slogans and colour schemes are great. What wins elections is pure hard work. In fact its bloody slavery. You work with volunteers and there is no down time. It is every minute of the day, its preparation, organisation, review. It’s out in wind or snow or shine. Kids watching too many movies think that the people who win elections for you are on big salaries, wear fancy suits, bring hordes of laptops and presentations and sit in fancy rooms strategising and ‘managing the message’. It’s a load of old codswallop. The people that win an election for you are those that lick the envelopes and go out and do the small demeaning tasks. The leaflet drops, the canvassing, fighting your corner during the pub chat, the tweets, the letters to the editor, the following up on behalf of their neighbour.
If I was organising a campaign then the time spent in a room nice and cosy would be very little. Decisions should be taken quickly and I’d be biting the head off everyone who slowed down or stopped for their caramel bloody macchiato while out dropping the leaflets in the rain.
Anyway I am looking to our local election candidates to show us what it’s all really about. I always judge those who worked on a campaign with me by their shoes. If they have one pair and they remain in good condition then they need a bollocking. So if you are a candidate I want you to send me the pics of your shoes……over the next few months tweet them to me @jonnyfallon and help restore my faith. I am starting with two candidates…Noel Rock and Samantha Long…both from FG as it happens but I’m sure other people will be along….They have sent me these snaps of their shoes and I must say it does my heart good.