Paul Simons: Labour’s in La La Land but so are many voters and they just might win

When David Cameron became PM the outgoing Labour team left a note in the Treasury that said “There’s no money left.” What short memories we have and also how history gets re-written so quickly.

Labour have a reputation for consistently being rubbish at housekeeping and their strategy for the forthcoming election is promising what the general public want – a utopian world of financial perfection. It is a very hard proposition to believe can be delivered.

However their poll ratings are rising with each promise they make, for example going for the young vote by promising to scrap tuition fees this year.

Labour’s core approach is emotional, concerned about social issues such as healthcare, education, security, NHS, etc., etc., for all of which they are promising to expand funding. Their campaign slogan is rooted in this approach “For the many, not the few.” A very compelling philosophy if you are scraping by on low wages amid high rents, unable to consider buying a home, with elderly parents living longer who don’t have any money.

Meanwhile the Conservatives are on the rational ticket; “Strong and Stable Leadership in the National Interest.” Couldn’t be more different to Labour but it assumes the population understand the benefits of the proposition. I doubt most do; it’s a bit akin to offering a child a tasty treat or a healthy salad – the answer lies in the growing obesity problem in the UK.

Their slogan is written for a target audience that reads The Economist – a fatal error.

Further the Conservatives are providing Labour with own goals such as the saga of the winter fuel payment being changed to a means-tested benefit. Rationally makes a great deal of sense – I know several people who receive the £200 but give it to a charity – but it was presented so badly it gave Labour the ability to kick the Conservatives as hard, uncaring and nasty, describing it as an attack on the elderly and vulnerable.

I thought lessons from the recent referendum would have taught the Conservatives a thing or two. I felt the big issue on the street at the time was immigration, understood by UKIP and the leavers and ignored by the remainers; the argument for remaining in the EU was again 100 per cent rational about issues most people don’t understand or care about, or both. The recent atrocities in London and Manchester will simply reinforce that groundswell of opinion about immigration.

For our Prime Minister, who voted to remain in the EU, I had expected she would have recognised the distinction between the rational and emotional propositions. Rational is for the minority, emotional is for the majority.

Jeremy Corbyn has milked the emotional pitch to the population, partly perhaps because he hasn’t got a rational leg to stand on. According to the polls he has pulled off an impossible recovery from nowhere man to dreaming about Number 10.

It is a bit like the whacky world of advertising and marketing where some brands are rooted in rational propositions and some more in the emotional world. A really good example currently is the latest work for Cadbury now operating under Kraft rules of advertising. Gone are the wonderfully enduring assets for brands such as Flake, Milk Tray, Roses, Fruit & Nut and not forgetting the fabulous Gorilla spot for Dairy Milk, all to be replaced by dubious creative work that has resulted from supposedly “rigorous” Millward Brown pre-testing.

I think Labour are in La La Land because they can’t deliver all they promise but were they to get to a position of power it’ll still take several years for the next note that says “all the money has gone.”

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.