The Influencing Academy

by the Editor
Published 9/3/2020

I suspect many of you will remember Alastair Campbell's best known role as spin doctor for Tony Blair during his time as Prime Minister.

Campbell has gone on to be a prominent figure trying to override the will of the people over the EU Referendum.

What else has Alastair Campbell been up to recently. Well it was with interest that I found the gentleman involved with a project designed to assist social housing providers to influence politicians.

http://www.cih.org/news-article/display/vpathDCR/templatedata/cih/news-article/data/Work_harder_to_influence_government_on_housing_Alastair_Campbell_tells_CIH_conference

In this 2013 article Campbell is quoted as saying the below:

"Make your argument as simple as possible then decide your target audience – the Chancellor in the run-up to the Budget for example. Make sure you know what you want but that you build your argument based on their bigger picture, not yours.”

He added: “The best strategies are where public cajoling is matched with private engagement.  Strategic communication is about joining up the dots until you have a bigger picture on your terms. It’s about knowing how to get in the door and then knowing what to say when you get there"

Dictionary.com defines cajoling as "to persuade by flattery or promises; wheedle; coax".

So it basically seems that Campbell is advocating manipulating people to achieve your own ends or have I misunderstood? He seems to be saying to know what you want and then use things that resonate with those you are serving to achieve what you want. Is this acceptable?

Those serving the public should be there to serve the people not manipulate them. The EU fiasco which is still going on with us at risk of EU Military Union is a prime example of how some public servants are not serving the public.

This brings us on to the "Influencing Academy".

Click here to view the 2020 application form - This is hosted on Craven Freedom web space so that it stays available, but I found it here (the below link may no longer work if you are reading this in future months):
https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fs3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com%2Fdoc.housing.org.uk%2FInfluencing_Academy_application_form_2020NEW.docx

One of the more concerning quotes from this document is this:

"You'll support the Federation’s campaigns and share political intelligence with us so we can shape the political environment and public perceptions on housing issues."

So rather than listening to what the public want from housing, these people have taken it upon themselves to try and form our view for us. In other words you could say to impose their view on us and then proceed to try and enforce it on the government under the pretence that the idea originated from the people.

Now I'm not going to be unfair here as clearly some people in the housing industry will have good and sensible ideas they can honestly put to the public that will be of great value, but you can also see that with this setup it is wide open to those trying to manipulate the public. If an idea is good it shouldn't need any of this NLP stuff, it should be presentable as a good idea on its own merit.

That brings me on to this little article below:

https://abirdseyeviewofhousing.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/influencing-academy/

There seems to be a lot of talk of power and a thrust at building power so they can have change.

The article goes on to say:

"Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirrall South, gave fantastic insight into the practicalities of getting an MP’s attention and support. She talked us through 4 challenging campaigns and her view of what worked well and what didn't’t: the smoking ban, foreign aid spending, assisted suicide and same sex marriage.
She reminded us that MPs work only for their constituents and they are the key to gaining their support. Also, that they have crazy diaries and cannot support every issue, looked for shared priorities, bring solutions and be action focused. The big take away message from Alison for the group was that politics is 10% ideas and 90% logistics, meaning the Academy has a lot of work ahead of us!

Alistair Campbell was our final speaker, who spoke a lot about having a strategy and remaining true to your values to guide any influencing work. He shared our frustration that despite housing affecting everyone throughout their entire lives (unlike health and education), it is still not the top voter issue."

I get a feeling from the above that there are some working in conjunction with MPs to reshape public opinion to fit whatever agenda they may have at that moment. After that these organisations can then carry out their agenda and claim that they acted on public opinion when it was in fact them who inserted this as a public opinion in the first place. Am I being maybe too cynical here? I'm not saying that everyone in these meetings will have that intention, but I really see no need for these sorts of semi-clandestine meetings. Why not go straight to the public with no agenda and no prior NLP planning to simply ask what the public want from social housing?

Same sex marriage is an example of people acting above their station so to quote it in here also sets alarm bells ringing for me. Are these groups planning on pushing through unpopular policies? God defines marriage, none of us have any authority to redefine it. The legislation relating to it is therefore null, void and holds no meaning other than being an outrage and an embarrassment to our country.

Clearly there are many good people in the housing sector. Many attending these sorts of events will have designs on doing good, but I am aware that there is a planned push to get smart tech into social housing round here. I would encourage people to push back against this and refuse it. This includes smart meters, motion detectors and devices that proactively monitor your home for repairs. Whilst I can't and don't deny that some of these devices provide some benefit on some levels, they also mean you are giving up your privacy. These devices enable you to be tracked and monitored in your house. Some go as far as to physically pinpoint your movements, while others report back what appliances you use and when. The other concern with some of these devices is they will be pumping radiation into your house from their wireless signals. Do we give up our independence and privacy to lifeless machines or do we have machines remain as tools to be used by us when we want?

Having said that please don't see housing associations as our enemies, encourage the people seeking good in them, but please I ask you do not let them push smart tech and smart meters on you, keep that stuff out of your house.