Friday, February 12, 2010

Bill Shankly and Guacamole

I know, it's an unlikely pairing. No doubt the old growler would more likely have rubbed guacamole on Tommy Smith's bruised legs than eaten it for lunch. So what's the link? Prospective parliamentary candidates.

Up in Liverpool Wavertree, all is not well. The candidate selected to fight the safe-ish Labour seat is Luciana Berger. She's not local, but there have been plenty of candidates who have moved to their constituencies, and become excellent MPs. However, a measure of local knowledge is handy. Ms Berger was quizzed by the Liverpool Echo, to determine how much she knew about her prospective parliamentary seat. She knew that Liverpool's airport was named after John Lennon, and that there were "at least two" Mersey tunnels. However, she had never heard of legendary Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly, and had no idea who sang "Ferry Cross the Mersey". Ms Berger is 28, so she was being asked about things before her time. But a modicum of local knowledge would be expected, especially in Liverpool, where for at least half the city, Bill Shankly is a hero. Former sofa-dwelling actor Ricky Tomlinson is so incensed, he's thinking of standing against her. Of course, Ms Berger may never have heard of him either.

It put me in mind of an apocryphal story attributed to then Labour candidate Peter Mandelson, when he was canvassing in Hartlepool. The story was that he mistook mushy peas in a local chip shop for guacamole. In fact, the story stemmed from an American political reporter who made the mistake while covering an election in (guess where?) Liverpool in 1986. Rather than waste a good line, Tory activists quickly started the rumour that Mandelson had made the error.

True or not, these stories of political foot-in-mouth can be extremely damaging. The point is, whatever you do, in politics or business, you need to be properly briefed. You need to do your research. And you need to check that are fully prepared before you talk to prospective voters or customers.

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