Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, has barely got his feet under the table but there are already fault lines appearing within the party.
Whilst his informal style and anti-establishment undertones resonated with those eligible to vote, he needs to quickly unify the Shadow Cabinet and the wider party and present some clearly-defined policies. If we were advising his team we would urge that he sets out a clear agenda, which his colleagues and the party are happy to support and to promote. Instead, we have seen members of the Shadow Cabinet seemingly unable to articulate any policy that doesn’t contradict statements from other colleagues. They are for and against membership of NATO; they are unclear on the future of Trident and they’re anti-austerity but agree that cuts to benefits are needed.
Then, we had the refusal to sing the National Anthem at the recent event celebrating the bravery of those who took part and lost their lives in the Battle of Britain. As a potential prime minister-in-waiting you cannot afford the slightest gaffe and to have put a foot wrong so soon doesn’t bode well. Some colleagues came to his defence and argued that it was his democratic right not to sing, but he may find that this backfires when the country exercises its democratic rights in 2020 (and in the English local elections next May).
In the private sector companies have to work hard to maintain positive relations with their customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders. and they need to present coherent messages to all their audiences. CEOs and MDs work very hard to ensure that their company’s perform in line with board and shareholder expectations, and that they lead decisively and ensure that all employees remain equally committed to the company.
Love him or loathe him, Tony Blair was very clear on what he wanted to achieve and what messages he wanted to convey; his team had their media grid co-ordinated by their master of communications, Alastair Campbell, who ensured that everyone remained on-message. The result? What might have been perceived as a fanatical attention to presenting the New Labour message led to the party being elected for an unprecedented three terms. Of course, there were claims of spin and re-announcing or re-packaging old policies, but the discipline worked and the party remained in power for 13 years.
Jeremy Corbyn might be right to assume that the electorate is tired of not being told how things really are; perhaps we have had enough of smoke-and-mirrors and want some substance. Whether or not he is right about what the electorate needs, they do want clarity and to understand what Corbyn’s party stands for.
In the corporate world the leading companies and brands are those that have delivered, and continue to deliver, exactly what they promise to do. It doesn’t matter whether this is Poundland or John Lewis, they deliver what their customers expect and no one is confused. Why have Aldi and Lidl done so well in recent years? They have set out their stall, quite literally, and have successfully re-positioned their offer to the extent that you now see Range-Rovers, Mercedes and Audis in their car parks. People don’t go to the discounters for a retail experience (which isn’t promised, by the way), they go for low prices and quality products. The same goes for almost every other successful company: there is no void between expectation and experience, and there is no clearer example of this promise of performance than with Ronseal’s excellent strapline: “It does exactly what is says on the tin”.
If we stay with branding and straplines, I would have to conclude that if Jeremy Corbyn had been at the helm of Ronseal, we might well have had: “Ronseal: It can probably do the sort of things alluded to on the tin” and the company would have varnished (sorry, couldn’t resist) without a trace!