It’s renewal time and I’ve received an invitation to extend my Liberal Party membership. It’s one of the more revealing communications I’ve received from the Secretariat. Unintentionally so, of course.
The opening sentence captures much that is wrong with the Liberals’ approach to internal matters.
As we approach the 2015 election, your membership of the Liberal Party is more important than ever.
Claim Contrary to Reality
Actually, no. Membership of the Liberal Party is not more important than ever. Membership makes no difference for people who don’t want to be campaign managers, staffers, MPs or connected to decision makers (for whatever reason of whatever legality). The cash injection is minimal. There is no engagement with policy, campaign management, or communications quality.
In truth, even for elected backbenchers and junior Ministers there is no engagement with policy or communications quality.
The real contribution standard party members make is to pay for fundraising events, work the street, knock on doors, and hand out How-to-Votes on election day. And you don’t have to be a party member to do that.
Now that Premier Baird is floating the idea of public funding for elections, membership will be more pointless. Public funding will mean that the backroom decisions of factional leaders and a few Cabinet players will be even more unaccountable to party membership. Because those backroom boys will know they’ll get money to run their ads and pay their print costs regardless of their grassroots engagement.
Yeah, the mad, the sad and the lonely will join regardless of the meaningfulness of their contribution. As will the tribal loyalists and the desperate-to-be-MPs and the status-seeking hacks who populate all major community groups.
As will that tiny percentage of people who actively want to change the world and hope to do something regardless of the institutional barriers. But they really fall under the ‘mad’ category [declaration of interest].
Belief People Will Swallow It
Perhaps most revealing is the Secretariat belief that people will swallow what is blatantly untrue. It is the party-internal equivalent of treating voters as mug punters and tools to be used.
This is the core problem of our political class. A lifetime in a bubble that leads to hubris, which isn’t helped by the youth and inexperience of many party workers. All of which leads to the belief that it is ‘smart politics’ to treat everyone as an idiot except a very limited insider elite.
And that leads us to where we are now, with political parties worldwide that have no credibility or identifiable values, and angry populations ripe for a competent populist movement. Not a good place to be when the world economy is still teetering.
Using a lie to open a request for money immediately elicits a negative and suspicious response. It is the worst thing a fundraiser can do. It is unsurprising that in this case it’s a clunky sentence.
These sorts of letters have to be highly crafted to: build a positive initial response, engage and invite agreement, and then lead to the only possible course of action – handing over money.
Instead, this starts with an untruth, goes into a campaign pitch, and then links membership to solving problems it can’t solve.
This is just a reminder letter that smells of bullsh*t.
The quality of this communication shows the fundamental lack of respect party insiders have for standard party members. Rather than supporting the claim that membership of the Liberal Party is more important than ever, it reveals just how unimportant it really is.