Danny Rogers: Jeremy Corbyn has vision to win – like Thatcher and Obama

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THE British press has already decided Jeremy Corbyn is finished. In fact it made this decision a long time before September 12 when he won the Labour leadership by a landslide.

On the contrary, as Corbyn prepares for his inaugural speech at the party conference this week, there are indications that his political career may be about to take off.

It is worth recalling that Corbyn began the Labour leadership race in May as a 100-1 rank outsider.

But then what do the bookies and the pollsters know? The same ones told us, earlier this year, that there was no chance of the Conservatives gaining a majority in the general election.

The truth is that Corbyn ran a brilliant campaign to win the leadership; a four-month flourish that highlighted some of the essential elements of any great modern campaign. And if he can build on this over the next four years, he could be further confounding those pollsters.

The starting point for Corbyn has been authenticity and clarity of vision. It is characteristic that underpins any great campaign. Margaret Thatcher had it in 1979. Barack Obama had it in 2008.

The public has become wiser still to the blunt strategies of image and media manipulation. Today we demand to know a politician’s principles and values and from whence they derived.

Corbyn’s unwillingness to shift his left-wing views or throw out his shabby beige suits has truly struck a chord with voters, disillusioned by 18 years of New Labour and David Cameron, where style so often triumphed over substance.

The second key element of Corbyn’s campaign has been his ability to circumvent traditional media.

Again, like Obama, Corbyn has found ways of talking directly to voters without communicating through the prism of often biased newspapers and TV journalists.

Using social media, data-based marketing and internet-organised rallies, Corbyn and his team have whipped up grassroots support.

There is an increasing sense in this age of digital campaigning that the crowd may be ahead of the content.

In other words, just because the Press doesn’t like you, it doesn’t mean that’s the consensus of the people – the voters.

This leads on to the third phenomenon in effective modern campaigns, which is the potential to create marketing movements in an age where consumers are more ethically conscious and with dwindling trust in traditional institutions.

A movement – as opposed to a traditional mass marketing campaign – relies on a core piece of human truth or insight that sits at the heart of it; one that survives the endless scrutiny and retelling on social media; and one that actually changes behaviour.

Corbyn’s success has started to resemble a movement: an underdog with old-fashioned principles mobilising people power against all odds. One of the great advantages of movement marketing is that it doesn’t require the huge advertising budgets of traditional political campaigns.

But we should not get ahead of ourselves. Before we start picturing Corbyn making his beloved jam in the kitchen of 10 Downing Street, we should recognise the major flaws already apparent in ‘campaign Corbyn’.

Another key element in great campaigns of any stripe is consistent narrative and professional media management. The sheer diversity of modern democratic media requires a consistent and professional approach. Without this, the occasional negative newspaper article, gaffe or online opinion piece can soon build into a torrent of bad news; a collage of contradictions and chaos.

For example Corbyn may yet regret his failure to put a single woman into the main roles of his shadow cabinet – it appears to fly in the face of his gender equality ideals.

Meanwhile his team’s responses to the media outcry at his decision not to sing the National Anthem at a Battle of Britain memorial have flip-flopped. Some reports said he was sticking to his principles, others said he would definitely sing the anthem from now on.

And does his leadership want to stay in the EU or not?

Corbyn may be clear in his own head, but the public narrative is already becoming confused. This is where Corbyn lacks the sheer strategy and discipline of the Tony Blair regime.

Alastair Campbell explains that everything that his team did or said was tested against a four-word strategy: ‘New Labour, New Britain’. It was a formula that won three general elections.

At the moment, one writes off Corbyn at one’s peril. This week is his opportunity to cement his vision for Britain that could take him to the zenith of British politics. He should be well aware, however, that his campaign has some way – and many stories, triumphs and crises – to go before it can lay any claim to real success. Let alone greatness.

Danny Rogers is one the UK’s pre-eminent media and marketing journalists. His new book Campaigns that Shook the World: The Evolution of Public Relations (Kogan Page) is published next month.