Lessons from America, part 3: Following up

Mitt Romney’s Twitter feed at 8.30am (GMT) on 8 November

My final thought, for now, on campaigning lessons from America is, once again, prompted by Sam Coates (not of the Times).

Mitt Romney supposedly didn’t write a concession speech (I doubt that, and the one he gave was pretty good despite the TERRIBLE delivery). More importantly though he has not communicated with his supporters since then.

Following up and making sure that you tie up the loose ends is vital. I was amazed, in December 2005, that my addition to the to-do list of sending a post-vote closing, pre-announcement, ‘thanks for a great campaign’ message to all of our registered supporters was in any way regarded as a new idea. I had assumed that a) politeness and b) completeness meant that such a message would be a given. Apparently not. Gratifyingly (and please forgive me blowing my own trumpet), it was fantastically well-received – we got huge numbers of replies saying that this sort of thing was exactly why members had voted for us.

One of the things that disappoints me about this government is their disinterest in following up and expanding on initiatives. For example, the European Conservatives and Reformists – GREAT idea, delivered the first step… and then didn’t expand. Didn’t build on the first step.

Another example? The Big Society. It is big enough as an idea to adapt to our current difficult situation (and indeed massively improve it), and yet instead, we’ve allowed it to be seen as some kind of do-gooding, good-times only nice to have. Or perhaps worse, as a ‘cover’ for ‘ideological cuts’.

And yet another – local mayors. This should have been a roaring success but the policy was announced, a few half-hearted mutterings made and the referendums happened in a vacuum so were almost all defeated.

Governing is about ideas AND their implementation (and in that, I include, of course, a proper communications plan). It turns out that it isn’t enough to say, this is our idea, here’s the legislation, get on with delivering it. Effectiveness and commitment of the civil service is probably for another day, but given that we see, every day, examples of the people who are supposed to implement policy dragging their feet, then politicians and their advisers need to step up and harry them.

Mitt Romney’s failure to thank his supporters and point to the future is only a small example of this problem. But it’s important because it demonstrates a lack of concern for all those people who slogged their guts out for him; a lack of interest in the future of his party; and most importantly a lack of engagement in finishing a project.

I don’t want that to be how my leaders behave.

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