Sunday, 13 January 2008

Nick Clegg - the other story

Part of Nick Clegg’s political narrative resurfaced in one of today’s Sunday papers.

No, not the one he’s telling. It’s the counter story that others will tell about him. Watch for this over the coming weeks.

Take today’s Atticus diary column in The Sunday Times, claiming that Mr Clegg's new "image guru", John Sharkey has "ordered his new client to stop waffling".

Remember too the especially snide profile of Nick in the Sunday Times just after Christmas.

And just after Nick Clegg became leader, Peter Riddell captured the conventional wisdom of many Westminster commentators:

During his leadership campaign, he showed a tendency to waffle, to give rambling, well-intentioned answers that left viewers and listeners puzzled and unimpressed.

In his book Leading Minds, Howard Gardner showed that the ability to tell a story to their followers was a key factor in leaders’ successes. He also found that the stories of the leader must compete with many other extant stories; and if the new stories are to succeed, they must transplant, suppress, complement, or in some measure outweigh the earlier stories, as well as contemporary `counterstories. Gardner suggested that the simplest story usually won out, where it was fair or unfair, right or wrong.

The counter-story that he looked too old and had little charisma worked on Ming Campbell. He could not do much about them. By contrast, the “Bambi” and “Blur” tags that were thrown at Tony Blair during his early period as Labour leader did not last long because he developed a clear personal message and brand.

The lesson for Nick Clegg is clear: have a sharp edge; define yourself and where you stand very quickly, telling simple stories early and often.

No comments: