Friday, March 06, 2009

Ideas Campaign - grassroots or astroturf

I must have missed the original Prime Time appearance of Aileen O'Toole, so the launch last night on Prime Time caught me by surprise. I listened to the piece with some degree of scepticism (well I am a Kerryman reared, even if my Sarf London optimistic nature occasionally bounds in, ahwight!)

I don't have a problem with a genuinely open forum for the debate of and the testing of ideas and all ideas, let's have the crazies in too. Sure who know who is crazy now. Yet there are considerable questions hanging over this initiative.

One is that those behind it seem to have strong links to semi-state organisations and hence to government. And also the seeking after rights to commercialise ideas that people are going to volunteer seems completely unnecessary to me. It seems to me to be primarily if not exclusively PR people who the key movers here. PR people are not my biggest inspiration and I'd have to wonder what role PR needs to play in this.

History is replete with inventors and original thinkers who have never received the reward for their ideas. Far more often business people have become rich off the ideas of others than have the originators. So I have profound difficulty with the terms and conditions of participation in this effort.

"By submitting the idea you are thereby granting The Ideas Campaign the perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right to use, reproduce, copy, modify, edit, translate, publish, display, post, transmit, distribute or part company with your submitted idea without any compensation to you, anonymously or in the aggregate, for internal or external purposes, alone or as part of other works in any form, media or technology."

See people with ideas start with questions about where we are now, and then they go looking for solutions for well delineated problems. They are awkward to answer by definition but awkward isn't whinging though it might look it to some of the outside. Fact is I don't think there should be any parsing of the ideas (except for profanity or crudity). The ideas should be made available for all to see so that the public can then rate them, not be funnelled through a small number of people who may not necessarily have the expertise to assess their feasibility.

I also have to say that I would question the nature of the categories. For example the retail sector for which I submitted an idea reads more like the ideas should be about helping business in that area make money while I thought a real grassroots effort would be as interested or even more interested perhaps in ideas that would promote competition in the sector and give a better deal for consumer and the average Joe Citizen rather than boosting the profits of retailers. If those managers in Dunnes or Tesco can't come up with ideas to boost their businesses then someone else should be given their jobs, not looking to crowd source solutions to bail them out.

To be as clear as I can I think the basic premise is a good one and is worth doing but the execution for the moment is poor, looking for ideas from others that you could sell on and reap the benefit of it is exploitation. And the motives of those involved are opaque given their linkages to the semi-state and big Irish sector (the banks, Eircom, Aer Lingus, yeah they are really the go-getters that we should be emulating).

Update: this is covered rather well over at Value Ireland. And they note that the reference to selling on of the ideas has been removed. Curious that it has been removed without noting its removal on a blog post or press release while they did find the time to issue a press release about some minor overlap in keywords in Google Adwords.

Maire Hoctor - Not ready for Prime Time

Regular readers will know that I've a certain view of Maire Hoctor TD based on my continuing astonishment that she is a minister for state. Following on from her contribution to the Oireachtas, her performance on Prime Time should be compulsory viewing for all media trainers. Here it is for those that missed it.

It is hard to understand how bad the rest of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party must be that she is a minister for state.

P.S. I do apologise for the slight movement in the clip, though it's not on the level of Cloverfield or the Blair Witch. And I did add some very minor commentary of my own.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Playing a long game

The FF Ard Fheis with the strong television presence of various young candidates got me thinking about FF’s future; they do have one you know just as FG had one in 2002. It is just all too tempting for most of us (myself included) in writing commentary to simply write them off.

It occurred to me that with all the talk of the impeding collapse of the government that FF might have decided to stay their course and simply ride it out. The Greens appear not to be for moving no matter what the circumstances, I believe that to be a mistake but having made that decision for their own reasons they are determined to see it through. I would still hold that the real weak link come the next budget is the FF backbenchers, however I would have to blind to the reality to ignore the alternative which is that FF are simply playing for time at the moment.

In seeking to ride out the negative reaction to the current economic climate they could decide, much as they did partially in 2004, to throw the local and European elections. This would let the voting public get their venting out of their system and while not damaging the electoral prospects of the party at national level. In doing so it would suit them to get as much bad news and the taste of the awful medicine out of the way ASAP. Hell after all if they are going to lose the locals anyway then all the better reason to lose big at this stage while giving themselves 3 whole years to turn things around. As for the Europeans only in Dublin is the loss of a seat a serious prospect and even there it would require a strange set of circumstances for it to happen. I personally believe that a longer period than the current Dail allows for will be needed to return the country to sound finances. That said there is the small matter of a provision for the Dail term to be extended to up to seven years in emergencies, I wonder if FF might be tempted to go in that direction at some point. It was jokingly referred to back at the time of the FG/Lab coalition in the 80s.

Yet it is not impossible that were things to be looking a good degree more stable 3 years then FF support could be up. And up substantially from their current levels in the low 20s which to be fair are pretty much disastrous. Yet a scenario whereby FF and FG are tussling it out on 30% odd while Labour are floating in the high teens to low twenties would be just fine for FF. That situation would leave SF, the Greens and the Independents to fight over the remaining 20/25% of public support. Might the greens and SF be in a position to do a deal is that were the lie of the land. While not optimum for current TDs, it is considerably better than the prospects for the party at the moment.

Coupled with this is that fact FF’s candidate strategy which has offended so many local activists could also be marking a shift to a UK style central office directed candidate selection process for Dail candidates. Sure all the parties who stand for election want to win seats but FF want to be able to govern too and that translates that some minimum number of TDs has to be capable of being more than glorified councillors. Some of them have to be able to run ministries.

Of course, I can’t say for sure that this is the case but I wouldn’t put it past some element of the FF hierarchy or PtB to have sat down and done the maths and decided to take the long view on the prospects of that party. And part of that long view is that a retreat in support, if it is only temporary, could well suit the party in the long term.