ADVERTISING & PROMOTION: Honesty is by far the best policy in battle for votes

Stalin and Hitler were perhaps the most loathsome monsters this cruel century has produced. And although they represented seemingly opposed ideologies, Professor Alan Bullock’s superb double biography showed they had much in common. They both knew how to persuade, but only Hitler was good with large audiences. Otto Strasser described his technique: ‘He enters a hall. he sniffs the air, feels his way, senses the atmosphere. Suddenly he bursts forth. His words go like an arrow to their target, he touches each private wound in the raw, liberating the unconscious, touching its most private aspirations, telling it what it wants to hear.’

Stalin and Hitler were perhaps the most loathsome monsters this cruel

century has produced. And although they represented seemingly opposed

ideologies, Professor Alan Bullock’s superb double biography showed they

had much in common. They both knew how to persuade, but only Hitler was

good with large audiences. Otto Strasser described his technique: ‘He

enters a hall. he sniffs the air, feels his way, senses the atmosphere.

Suddenly he bursts forth. His words go like an arrow to their target, he

touches each private wound in the raw, liberating the unconscious,

touching its most private aspirations, telling it what it wants to

hear.’



Persuasion starts with empathy. Not with saying something your audience

doesn’t believe, but something they accept. Tony Blair understands this.

He is, if you like, a good marketer; he finds out what people want and

does his best to deliver it without, we hope, overly compromising his

principles. Now he is trying to teach the rest of his party. A ‘Secret

Labour Committee’ has approved a strategy to make the party’s

personalities, policies and presentations appealing to women.



Their recommendations include obvious things any halfway decent door-to-

door salesman would give you. They include: talk about people; tell

stories; don’t use jargon; don’t ‘ghetto-ise’ women’s issues; and in

interviews, answer the question, don’t be vague. Politicians’ habit of

answering one question with another or answering one which wasn’t asked

infuriates us all. Other advice is: make things like education and

healthcare relevant; be positive about Labour, not just negative about

the Tories; and admit the Tories get it right sometimes. In other words,

be honest.



Mr Major’s lot could learn from this. Had they admitted they made a hash

of things during the great currency cock-up, we would have been stunned

into admiration to hear politicians admit they were wrong. Following

this unprecedented piece of honesty, they could have pointed out, just

as truthfully, that the other parties were even more committed to the

fatal policies they followed. If you tell the truth twice, voters are

more likely to agree with less obviously credible statements. They could

now claim life is marginally better under their care with some hope of

being believed.



If they lose the next election it will be because of dishonesty, but not

just because people like Mr Hamilton asked questions for money, but for

not telling the truth when it could have paid. Having told one whopper

when they could have come clean, they’re labelled as liars forever.



Blair’s problem may be that he seems too slick. Hitler had another ploy

few people noticed. His hesitancy, his impression of being carried away

on a wave of manic enthusiasm were deliberate, aimed at convincing

audiences he believed what he said. Should democratic politicians learn

from Hitler? Why not? Why should the devil have all the best tunes?



Drayton Bird runs the Drayton Bird partnership



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