'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Why Theresa May's feelings may not get her very far, very fast

As you may know I have many problems with the immigration bill put forward by Theresa May last week.

Nick Cohen wrote an excellent analysis of why Theresa May thinks it's a good idea (or in politicians speak - 'a vote winner') - because, despite a lack of hard evidence (like the actual costs of health tourism), she 'feels' it's the right thing to do and 'feels' voters (especially no doubt those voters casting glances in the direction of UKIP) will agree with her.

"Britain's home secretary announced that she was cracking down on the "health tourists" who were using Britain's hospitals for free. The interviewer pressed her. How much money were these health tourists stealing from our pockets? May did not know. The Royal College of GPs, which ought to know, puts the cost at 0.01% of Britain's health budget – or next to nothing. When the European Commission asked Britain for proof that sly continentals were sneaking into our hospital beds, Whitehall replied that its demand for hard facts was an affront. "We consider that these questions place too much emphasis on quantitative evidence," it huffed.
Far from being embarrassed, Mrs May was triumphant. Feelings mattered more than facts. Her job as a senior politician with ill-disguised ambitions to become prime minister was to pander to popular prejudice rather than tell the public the truth.
People feel it is unfair that illegal immigrants can use services, she said. They "feel it's too easy to stay here illegally". They had the "feeling that people who are here illegally were accessing services", she continued, before degenerating into a babble of random noise, from which I just about made out that the "people" who had these "feelings" were, of course "hard working". "

Now, as I have written in the past someone in Theresa May's office knows a thing or two about communications and has clearly now told her that emotional messaging is more powerful than rational messaging. Which indeed it is. But luckily for us, that's only half the story.

When I was reading Nick's piece, I was reminded of these words from Dave Trott - one of advertising's finest thinkers - on why emotional messaging only works when underpinned with a rational message. Do read the whole thing (It's short , easy to understand and as always with Dave very direct) - but here's an extract...

"If your emotional mind had to sum up Volkswagen quickly what would it come up with?
I’m betting: reliable, solid, safe.
Now imagine if Fiat ran an advertising campaign with lots of emotional triggers for reliable, solid, safe.
Would that instantly change your opinion of Fiat to the same as VW?
I don’t think so.
I think all that rational advertising about cars that are solid, reliable, safe did that for VW.
What brought it alive, what made it stick, was the way they did it."

Fortunately, all Theresa May is doing is the pretty pictures and the nice music.

But without any of the rational underpinning. It won't stick

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