Sunday, 23 November 2008

Narrativewatch: Lembit Opik's karma ran over his dogma

The County Times a few days ago quoted Lembit Opik MP as saying that his public profile may have contributed to his defeat for the Liberal Democrat presidency.

"I am dead serious about my politics but I do it with a smile. Sadly some people have mixed up my political narrative with my high national profile."

But here’s the stark reality: Lembit Opik’s “high national profile”, with all its highs and lows, is his narrative. They have become one and the same thing.

Lembit Opik is another example of how you can have a political narrative, but you can’t own or control it.

It works like this. A politician wants to tell a story about his / her beliefs or policies and why we should vote for him / her. But the story can be drowned out by counter-stories, especially if the latter are simpler and more deeply rooted in the audience’s values or prejudices. That’s what happened to Lembit Opik [click here].

Most importantly, it is the political audiences (in this case, members of the Liberal Democrats) who decide their brand perception, their narrative, about any politician. The perception is set when they think a politician has(n’t) satisfied their wishes or needs. 

Voters’ perceptions are influenced by a number of factors. One of those can be media coverage. In this case, Lembit Opik’s coverage – and not just what’s been in the broadsheets, the tabloids and the glossy magazines – simply overwhelmed whatever he was trying to say.

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