Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blowing Dog-Whistles

The concept of the dog-whistle in political communication is a message sent out that is meant to be heard loudest by a core group of a parties actual or potential supporters. This can be reassuring the hard core loyalists or suggesting a shift that is attractive to the floating voters. Gordon Brown seems to have used the dog-whistle quite a bit, he hints at a withdrawal from Iraq while enforcing the message of change. So he talks to both the core Labour supporter as well as reassuring those who have been Labour supporters since 1997 but feel let down.

Last week (and I would have blogged this at the time but I had log in problems) Wendy Alexander, candidate to lead the Scottish Labour Party blew her own pro-Gordon dog-whistle designed to draw back supporters from the SNP. Without criticising Gordon, but instead blaming the problems that will probably always be associated with the last years of Blair's premiership, she suggested why Labour lost in Scotland "Iraq and cash for honours allegations played their part, but we would be fooling ourselves if we didn't recognise that we, in Scottish Labour, were also at fault in that defeat... The SNP didn't just win with slick presentational tricks... They won because they seized Labour's agenda of hope and aspiration... In May the people of Scotland told us loud and clear they wanted change... So change we must. Change how we behave, change how we engage and change how we respond to the people we represent".

This fits perfectly with Brown's agenda, bracket off the past, show the party has changed and offer the party as a new brand, with a new character. If the Scottish Labour voters see this as a true reflection of where the party is going they may just go back to Labour. Dog-whistles do work, provided the message is believed!

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