To the RSA to hear about Polly Toynbee and David Walker’s Verdict on New Labour
The defenses offered by Douglas Alexander and Jack Straw were interesting because the most persuasive bits (from a communications effectiveness point of view) where when they talked about the visible symbols of change in their constituencies and in particular new school and hospital buildings. As a recent user of a brand spanking new London Teaching Hospital this had the ring of truth for me. New housing though was not cited and New Labour’s record was heavily criticised from the floor. (French leaders have always understood the power of visible symbols with their “grand projets” – The Pompidou centre/Arc de Triomphe/Eiffel tower/IM Pei’s glass pyramid).
It does raise a question as to what visible symbols The Conservative will be associated with? It matters as we tend to judge a government by what we see immediately around us. At the moment it is empty shops-some of them filled by pop up art. But Boris Johnston may offer a clue with visible symbols of the greening of London through the likes of Boris Bikes. A visible success for both Boris and Barclays. How much further can this go- proper cycle lanes /more electric scooters ( an electric scooter cost only £200 in china so cheap ones can surely come here)more electric cars/solar panels that look designed into the environment rather than stuck on.
Ken Livingstone’s visible symbols were Congestion Charging Zones and the excellent and life enhancing transformation of the South Bank of the Thames as a place to perambulate,eat and enjoy metropolitan culture. The Dome is sufficiently out of the centre for us to have forgotten it as a symbol of New Labour and it has anyway been rescued and turned into an asset of the London entertainment scene by O2.It is too early to tell with the Olympic park.It is a “grand projet” in the French Tradition but will it turn out to be a white elephant? Too early to tell.
The worry for The Conservatives is that the grim language of cuts with be ever more manifest in the physical world.
Perhaps the key communications issue for the conservatives is how will The Big Society be expressed in a way that we can both experience it and see it.? Perhaps like Boris’s bikes and The Emirates this visible future will be sponsored.