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Notes on the environment, a role in EastEnders

Posted on 4 March 2009 | 10:03am

As an obsessive speller, I was horrified to see that in twittering on a speech I did on the environment yesterday, I mangled the word environment into ‘environmenent.’ I blamed this rare mis-spell on the fact that my tweet was about John Prescott, and I was therefore suffering from Subconcious Wordmangling Syndrome.

Then someone pointed out that I had mis-spelled subconscious, which indeed I had. Tired, if happy at Burnley’s late winner at Blackpool, I went to bed.
The reason I was mentioning JP was that I was at a huge conference on the environment, and sustainable building in particular, at Earl’s Court.

When I say huge, I mean huge. Thirty thousand delegates wandering around a vast array of ecobuilding products and ideas.
I was there to make a speech entitled ‘Making Big Change Happen,’ followed by a Q and A moderated by Roger Harrabin, environment correspondent of the BBC. He made a point of saying he felt that Tony Blair had significantly shifted the global debate on climate change, and said of JP ‘… that man never had a good word to say about me, but I have to say that when it comes to his spell in charge of the environment, his contribution was seriously misunderestimated.’ (deliberate wordmangle)
Amid the discussion on my Facebook page triggered by my posting of this genuine tribute to JP’s work were several people asking if I could post a copy of my speech on this blog.

The thing is that I tend to speak from notes, so I hope you can make sense of them.

– Obama … yes we can. Great slogan for making change. Big change will usually involve politicians. What has changed is the sources of influence have become more disaparate, less predictable. People complain less power … in many ways have more. Consumer led change.

– Gore … re the environment more influence out of power than in. New film, Age of Stupid. Saw one article on it. Know it will be important just from that. Then invited to it by producer via Twitter. Old and new media changing how we consume politics and campaigns.

– Obama … important not to learn wrong lessons. Fought brilliant modern campaign … online message/fundraising/organisation. But also fought brilliant old-fashioned campaign. Clear message. Rock hard strategy. Good organisation. Team. Discipline. Clear command structres.

– media has changed nature of politics and politicians. Obama’s hero Lincoln. Would he have survived in modern age? Slow to decisions. Endless going round arguments with colleagues. Comms by letter. Today information as infinity.

– never a single moment in time where major change occurs. Process hard to track. Elections nearest get to it, but result part of deeper longer narrative.
– first rule for big campaigns. OST. Know your objective. Define strategy. Only then do tactics (tell story of Clinton/Lewinsky, really staying focussed on his own OST as a way of getting through furore, by showing public BC still focussed on their concerns)

– environment. You are at the heart of big change re how the world looks and lives in the future. Sustainability. Architecture. Planning. Water/resources. Ensuring economy/environment does not become an either/or? Interesting how GB always makes green jobs part of solution re economy. NB Tories have gone quiet on environment as politics focusses more on economy.

– no two campaigns the same. Within the green campaign, there will be different styles, arguments, approaches. But you are all signalling a direction.

– Strategy as a whiteboard being filled over time with dots. Each time you communicate or do something that signals the direction, picture gets shaped. Forms over time. Day to day less important. Another Clinton quote (front of mind cos on website interview) … ‘the force of modern media such that too many decision makers define their reality according to that day’s media … almost always a mistake.’

– campaigns involved in. Elections. Objective – win. Strategy – New Labour, New Britain (explain) … Tactics – anything that says NLNB.
– Northern Ireland. Objective – peace. Strategy – persuasion around key points of division, consent/rights. Tactics – ‘all else is negotiation.’ Why am convinced one day MEPP will work.

– Leaders important, but grass roots support just as much. Lincoln/slavery. Churchill/war. Attlee/welfare state. Mandela as symbol then leader.

– Gay rights. Milk. Great film in part because it showed the humanity, almost random, of campaigns for change. Public ahead of politicians in many ways. Leaders emerging. Gay rights agenda now accepted in UK, not controversial. Track back a few years. Change slow to come but when it came, fast.

– Martin Luther King. Go and see some of the whites’ interviews claiming blacks inferior. Like a different planet. Yet in our lifetime. Change slow to come, hard to achieve, but when it came … eventually Obama.

– Green campaign very people up. Consumer choices making companies green themselves. Governments in a way welcoming pressure, as we did re Jubilee debt campaign because needed to influence other govts.

– different pressure points. Churches. Angry protest and quiet protest. Bono/Geldof mixing it at Davos. A place for all this. Africa – government working with protesters to achieve change.

– no simple blueprint. best campaigns driven by depth of belief. Motivation. Desire. The strength of your argument. Then the mobilisation of support for it. Hard grind.

– happening amid merger of citizen and consumer. Used to be public sector values and private sector standards. People want both from both.

– emergence of more participatory media.
– info as infinity.
– all campaigners now. All trying to make sense of change. Comms is part of that.

– Always try to work out where centre of gravity is. In green debate, it is in a good place. Provided economic crisis/sustainability does not become an either/or.

– upsum re green debate forward.

There you go. Hope that makes some sense. Seemed to make a bit of sense to the audience. Good q and a covering Heathrow, green jobs, fuel protests, whether the Science Museum should evangelise for change, whether the media had obligations to be environmentally friendly, how to get people to overcome fear about change, how to lobby government, and whether I had heard of the supergrid.

As for the mention of EastEnders in the headline to the blog. Just a device to get you to read to the end, to be frank. According to my Facebook friends I was mentioned in last night’s episode. Janine saying to Peggy, who is running for some kind of elected office, she would be me to Peggy’s TB, and where would Tony Blair have been without Alastair Campbell? Dead chuffed. Not quite as good as the name check I had in Shameless though. Now there’s a programme. Written by a Burnley boy too, Paul Abbott. Big day Sunday.