Independents Day

Not launching the new centrist party that isn’t. What now?

I don’t think I’ve seen anything more disappointing than the launch of The Independent Group.

I don’t just mean politically, I mean from a communications perspective as well. So many confused messages in such a short space of time!

Is there a Communications Strategy? I have to wonder if anyone sat down beforehand to plan this out.

As some of my former colleagues will recall with a slight wince, my habit in project meetings was to try and work out all the things that might go wrong and then see if we could head them off before any activity started. My job was always to defend the reputation of the organisation – that’s what public relations is ultimately about.

The complete strategy would have separate plans for different events, the tactics and actions required, what human, physical and financial resources would be required. You know, the usual stuff.

Online, off-line

Some of these things are fairly basic in the 21st century: your digital presence.

They have a website, but not at any of the domains you might guess at. Rule One: register your domain name, then any of the more obvious others that people might register to set up parody or activist sites. Virgin Media wouldn’t let me access one, another is a genuine business. Not a good look.

There’s a Twitter account, but not necessarily the first one you find as the parody account makers were quick off the mark. When I looked yesterday afternoon there were two that were difficult to distinguish between, neither of which was the actual account (and one of them has been suspended). I had to visit the hard-to-find website to find the actual Twitter account.

I daren’t look at the Facebook and Instagram parody accounts1 but I’m sure they’re amusing.

Mixed messages

Then we come to the Group itself. What do they stand for? Well…

They’re not a political party, they’re seven independent MPs. Seven MPs who just happen to have banded together in the same, independently-minded fashion.

You can support them financially but it’s not a party. Absolutely not. You can only financially support them en masse, although they are, you know, independent.

They have four policies: privacy, terms of use, cookies and donations. Oh, and a statement, which contains a list of values they believe in even though they don’t believe in ideology. Or, seemingly owning a dictionary with a definition of ‘ideology’.

And a non-logo logo.

We know the things they don’t stand for, but the list of things they do stand for is a bit vague. Which is understandable as free-thinking independents, less so as a group of people with things in common.

This is a gift for the political sketch writers. Skewered before they even get started.

So they’re correct to say that they’re not a political party, and they’re barely a movement. As it stands, they’re a branding exercise. A brand seemingly without a product.

What, I wonder, is the next stage? How do they keep the momentum (no pun intended) going? And how are they measuring success: donations? MPs (not independent ones, the Independent ones)? Surely not media coverage in the form of AVEs??

Please, everyone, donate to the Group, so that they may be able to afford some half-decent PR / comms / public affairs support. I can think of a few, really good people who would love to get involved.

Postscript

Since you were wondering, I’d have recommended resigning the party whip in twos and threes. Launch a new party during conference season when you’re more sure of your support from other MPs (seven does not an opposition make). Establish a position and your credentials as actual independents first. That way, your missteps (website, “funny tinge”) should be much less noticeable. You’re not different if you’re making the same mistakes as the party you just left.

  1. I’m not on Instagram, I’ve just suspended my Facebook account again. []