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Donal Blaney: Political technology determines political success


"Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. Political technology determines political success. Learn how to organize and how to communicate. Most political technology is philosophically neutral. You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win."

Elections are not won by being philosophically pure. Education vouchers, a flat tax or EU withdrawal may be the philosophically "true path" but such a path alone does not lead to victory. Likewise expensive advertising campaigns, highly paid consultants or a top-down campaign... They are insufficient too.

The key to winning elections lies in applying the latest political technology. This was recognised by the Conservative Party decades ago by the creation of local Party associations, the development of the concept of canvassing and the recognition of the importance of training by the creation of the likes of Swinton College.

Applying the latest political technology was also crucial in the 2005 general election with the use of consumer databases juxtaposed to previous canvassing records. It was not sufficient, however, to carry the Party to victory.

The maxim that "political technology determines political success" requires that candidates, campaign managers and activists of all ages and of all levels of experience recognise the importance of studying the latest techniques. No one should be too proud or busy to learn or to continue to learn.

It is not sufficient to rely on an army of tellers on polling day and 1950s canvassing techniques. The left has its own army of politically motivated public sector workers, trade unionists and others with a vested interest in preserving the status quo whose numbers exceed our own. It is therefore critical to achieve victory that a greater emphasis is placed on political technology.

Community or single-issue groups can often lend credibility to Conservative candidates in a way that a campaign being pursued by the Party itself cannot. Much of Greg Hands' success in Hammersmith & Fulham sprang from his own local council campaign that saw his election on a 15% swing from the Liberal Democrats in May 1998.

Direct mail, desk top publishing software, email communications, blogs and the internet are examples of other crucial political tools that are underused by Conservatives. In an age when the number of committed activists is on the decline, smart politics requires that those scant resources, be they financial or personnel, be applied to the best effect and the abilities of those activists be used most productively.

There is nothing so disheartening as seeing a keen young computer-literate student simply being handed a pile of leaflets to deliver when the smart application of political technology could see that student using his computer skills to design a direct mail package that would raise enough money for those leaflets to be delivered professionally in far greater numbers than is the case in most constituencies today.

Law 1 of the Public Policy Process is therefore this: POLITICAL TECHNOLOGY DETERMINES POLITICAL SUCCESS.

The Young Britons' Foundation offers training in the latest campaign techniques and other aspects of political technology to activists of all ages. For further information, contact Donal Blaney via [email protected].  Read the introduction to this series.


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