"Focus groups do not of necessity involve dilution of principle or compromise – to say that implies that the voters are fools, which they are not. They want politicians who are tough, honest and courageous, and who govern with principle. That is why they respected Margaret Thatcher and in the end lost faith in John Major. The public want leaders who lead, they want governments that tough it out. But they also want to be heard. Of course, governing with principle and yet in a continuous dialogue with the voters is complicated. But modern politics is complicated. The electorate is more demanding and is right to be so. It is up to us to meet the new challenge. I do not just see focus groups and market research as campaigning tools; increasingly I see them as an important part of the democratic process: part of a necessary dialogue between politicians and people, part of a new approach to politics."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"I took my courage in my hand and conducted my first group. No one trained me, I just did it. And I loved it. I loved the direct contact with the electorate, the way that I could put arguments, hear arguments, confront arguments, develop ideas, feel the intensity of a point of view and hear the opinions, attitudes and emotions of ordinary members of the public."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"With the exception of ‘spin-doctors’, no campaigning phrase has been imbued with a greater air of nonsensical mystique than ‘focus groups’. Why focus groups should have gained this elevated position I cannot tell. Old-fashioned qualitative research, another name for the same thing, has not taken off in people’s imaginations in the same way, nor has quantitative opinion polling, which is now incredibly sophisticated and potentially much more influential. Focus groups are important to me. The mystique surrounding them is ridiculous: they are simply eight people in a room talking. Their importance in modern politics is that they enable politicians to hear directly the voters’ voices."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"Central to the War Book and one of my core beliefs is that you must be absolutely honest about your opponent’s strengths, and your own weaknesses, and that you should put them in writing. It is a risk putting sensitive information down on paper, but in my view unless you document hard campaigning truths they will never be fully taken into account and will run the risk of being dodged or discounted. In this I took my lead from Joe Napolitan, who told me: ‘If a strategy is not in writing, it does not exist.’ Unless strategy and the inputs into strategy are written down and agreed, they will not be there. They will be just an impression of a strategy: you will think you have it, but under the pressure of campaigning it will melt."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

I really believe this. If nothing else, the process of writing something down clarifies your thinking and forces you to consider your position in its totality…

"10: Campaigning is about a dialogue with the people. The most important thing a party must do in a campaign is listen to what the voters are saying. This does not mean doing what they say, it means knowing what they are thinking and feeling, and respecting it."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"Campaigning is about message. People think message just means a few words, often repeated, but message is much more: it is the rationale that underpins your campaign. It is your central argument, the reason you believe that the electorate should vote for you and not your opponents. This rationale is the most important thing to get right in a campaign. You must be clear about why you are seeking to form a government, or why you wish to be Prime Minister. A message can be formed in part by opinion polling and the attitudes and values of the electorate, but it must also come from the substance of what you represent: what is true about you, as a party or a politician."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

This is a point that is often forgotten by young hacks….

"I believe in the ascendancy of progressive ideas and progressive values. I believe in political parties that serve the people and advance their hopes. And I believe that it is the responsibility of all of us involved in progressive politics to advance our case with the greatest skill and professionalism. The people we seek to serve would expect nothing less, and our opponents will do nothing else. There is no reason why the interests of the rich and the powerful should be advanced by the ruthlessly professional techniques of campaigning, while these are denied to the poor, the disadvantaged, and the hard-working majority. We should be proud that in Britain, and increasingly across the world, progressive parties have now established themselves as the better campaigners. Political campaigning skills are not ‘black arts’, as they have been described, but a body of expertise that has every right, probably more right, to belong to the many, and not to the few."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

In defence of focus groups…

"For as long as I can remember I have believed that there is a continuing battle between progressive and conservative forces. For most of this century conservative forces have won in Britain, and for much of the 1980s they were winning across the world – winning (in part) because the right could campaign well, and the left could not. I felt humiliated by these defeats, but it wasn’t me that was hurt: it was the millions of ordinary working people who deserved a better life, but who were repeatedly let down by progressive parties which campaigned poorly and did not seem to think that it mattered."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

A point that is too little recognised. Thatcherism was just as much a product of the failures of successive Labour Oppositions as it was the preceding Labour Government.

"‘SHORT FLAYS BLAIR’S “DARK MEN”’ ran the Guardian headline on 8 August. ‘Clare Short, the controversial shadow Cabinet minister, last night accused her leader’s advisers of jeopardising Labour’s chances of victory at the General Election and threatening its existence,’ the article began.28 Her accusations had been made in an interview with the New Statesman, in which she focused on ‘Blair’s misguided strategy’. She described his advisers as ‘the people in the dark’, whose ‘obsession with media and focus groups is making us look as if we want power at any price’. She said, ‘These people are making a terrible error. They think that Labour is unelectable, so they want to get something else elected, even though really it’s still the Labour Party. This is a dangerous game which assumes people are stupid … They are saying, “Vote for Tony Blair’s New Labour. We all agree that the old one was absolutely appalling and you all know that most of the people in Labour are really the old one, but we’ve got some who are nothing to do with that, vote for us!” One, it’s a lie. And two, it’s dangerous.’"

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"And also important, still, was what (Stanley) Greenberg called ‘the basics’: ‘One of the pre-occupations of Old Labour was a preoccupation with what the public often saw as “bizarre” issues: homosexuals, immigrants, feminists, lesbians, boroughs putting their money into peculiar things. Voters think that a serious party that represents the ordinary person focuses on things that matter to people in their lives, “addresses things that concern us”.’ After ten years of reform and modernisation, and despite the great strides taken by Blair, Labour was still a prisoner of its past."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

A good point. It’s not that voters are particularly hostile to these issues, they just can’t be the defining issues of a progressive political party. Your core policy platform has to be relevant to the primary concerns of the bulk of voters…

"Populism, which means Labour becoming once again the instrument through which ordinary people believe they can achieve their aspirations. We have to make it clear to working people that we understand their aspirations and that we want to make them better off; that we are against taxation for its own sake; that we are tough on crime; that we stress individual responsibility. A new Labour Party: we must at some appropriate point say to the public – and to the party – that we are a new Labour Party. Radical in intent, driven by change, underpinned by conviction, confident in our beliefs and ready to sweep the Conservatives away."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"But (Stanley) Greenberg’s central insight was that reaching out to the middle class does not exclude the poor; in fact, it does the opposite: ‘Most poor people also work, or want to work, and identify strongly with middle-class aspirations of security and upward mobility.’ By reaching out to the middle class it is possible to build a coalition that includes the poor and is able to help the poor by winning government."

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

"In December 1989 BMP had developed the concept of the ‘aspirational classes’. They argued that the key determinants of the next election would be ‘financial well-being: spending power, taxation, interest rates’. Qualitative research conducted at the time showed that despite the recession, Labour was seen as more likely to accentuate economic difficulties than the Conservatives. The key target group was the aspirational classes – working-class achievers and the middle class under pressure. This is the group I came to call the new middle class. I define them as those people who call themselves middle- and upper-working-class, estimated by the British Social Attitudes survey to comprise 50 per cent of the population. I came from this class and believe I understand it. It is the pivot around which progressive politics must revolve."

“The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould

It’s bold to define the aspirational class as the ‘pivot’ of progressive politics, but I think it’s both justified and pragmatic. What is the progressive movement about if not lifting people up? And given the demographic shrinkage of the ‘working class’ as traditionally understood, new groups needed to be embraced to form a governing coalition for progressive politics…

"

For many, Michael Foot was not a leader who tried but failed woefully, but a martyr, a champion to ‘the cause’. Too many saw him as Gwyn Williams did:

"There he stands, Member for Ebbw Vale, bone of our old bone, blood of our very blood, in his white hair and his cheekbones, his humanity, his generosity, his literacy and his stick, the only legitimate heir in the apostolic succession."

"

— “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” - Philip Gould