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Future of Political Communications

The Labour Party Annual Conference 2021

SME4Labour Fringe: Future of Political Communications

  • Speaker: Mark Glover, Executive Chairman of SEC Newgate, an award-winning strategic communications firm
  • Speaker: Cllr Tom Flynn, Southwark Council, experienced digital communications director
  • Speaker: Tom Mauchline, 89UP impact agency, an expert on political communications and co-author of the Strong Message Here blog
  • Speaker: Cllr Claire Holland, Leader of Lambeth council
  • Speaker: Emilly Wallace Inflect Partners, strategic communications and business transformation consultancy

Event Summary:

Our second event of day two of Labour Party Conference 2021 kicked off with a landmark event: “The Future of Political Communications.” We were joined by a panel of expert speakers to discuss the future of political communications, public relations, public affairs and government relations, and the importance of communications to the Labour movement – considering how Labour could most effectively utilise political communications to win at the next General Election. We were joined by a panel of expert speakers including: Mark Glover – Executive Chairman of SEC Newgate, Emily Wallace of Inflect Partners, Sarah Jones MP – Shadow Minister for Police and the Fire Service, Councillor Tom Flynn of Southwark Council, Councillor Tom Mauchline of 89UP impact agency, and Councillor Claire Holland – Leader of Lambeth council.

Our discussion first heard from our Chair Mark Glover, Executive Chairman of SEC Newgate who introduced the context of the discussion, as well as commenting what was required from the Labour Party in terms of improving its political communications and messaging and the importance of real and sustained investment in a modern communications infrastructure to ensure Labour’s future success.

We next heard from Emily Wallace of Inflect Partners who emphasised the importance of strategy and understanding your audience. Wallace explored the fact that Labour has not won a General Election since the introduction of the smartphone, Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp, not having won from the opposition since in 1997 – when its communications machine was for the time, cutting edge. Wallace explored the significance of the vast communications machine employed by Government with over 4500 communications professionals working to deliver the Government’s messaging. Wallace skilfully outlined the need for a real overarching strategy, utilising the vast communications experience that exists within the party, emphasising the need for Labour to be more agile and better at utilising their resources.

Our next speaker Councillor Tom Flynn of Southwark council outlined his long career in of digital communications, outlining his experience in the first attempts at digital communications at the local level, recalling the distribution of DVDs at the constituency level. Flynn explored the importance of both targeted communications and traditional doorstep comms, highlighting that a number of recent changes to legislation including GDPR as well as social media platforms changing their policies on political communications has meant political communications must again adapt. Flynn highlighted the importance of upskilling CLPs on the potential upside of utilising effective digital communications, exploring the ways in which national messaging can be effectively targeted at the local level.

Our next speaker Councillor Tom Mauchline of 89UP impact agency offered a unique insight into the importance of targeted communications and storytelling in effective political communications. Mauchline highlighted his experience working with 89UP, and the ways in which the Labour Party could learn from targeted and specific messaging. We also heard from Sarah Jones MP and Shadow Minister for Police and the Fire Service who outlined the ways in which the front bench are changing their communications strategy, outlining the ways in which the new leadership is seeking to reconnect with its lost voters.

Our final speaker Councillor Claire Holland – Leader of Lambeth council outlined the importance of political communications at the local level. Holland outlined the significance of political communications throughout the pandemic where local people’s lives were in many ways dependent on the quality of the council’s communications output. Holland explored in depth the importance of effective communications at the local level, outlining where Labour could more effectively communicate with communities, utilising the many councils and Mayors Labour controls to connect with the electorate. Holland emphasised that messaging that employed specific local characteristics with an overarching national narrative could most effectively improve Labour’s political messaging.

Our event “The Future of Political Communications” brought together an expert panel of speakers who considered in-depth what the future held with regards to political communications and the ways in which Labour must adapt to win power. Our panel explored what more the Labour Party could do to combat the extensive Government communications apparatus, considering that by intensify its targeting both digitally and in terms of narrative, as well as highlighting what Labour are doing in power in local councils and mayorships, Labour can most effectively communicate with the electorate. Our discussion considered in-depth the ways in which Labour may most effectively improve its political communications in order to win back power at the next General Election and offered a real insight into effective communications in the 21st century.

The Future of Political Communications

Mark Glover

PRCA Awards 2020 Winner – “Outstanding Contribution in Public Affairs Award”

The former Labour Councillor is now Executive Chairman of SEC Newgate UK – a 130 strong UK Communications, Advocacy and Research Agency part of the SEC Newgate Group on whose Board Mark serves.

He founded Newington in 2006, Mark was the multi, award-winning consultancy’s CEO for 15 years.

Tom Flynn is an experienced digital strategist providing senior level counsel to UK and international clients across a wide range of organisations in the private, public and charity sectors.

Tom’s background is in politics, running digital election campaigns both in the UK and abroad. He specialises in targeted digital advertising – using data to identify key stakeholders and deliver highly-effective social media and digital content.

Tom leads the digital team at SEC Newgate UK which he built from scratch in 2017.

Prior to joining the SEC Newgate group, Tom ran his own digital consultancy business advising Members of Parliament, political parties and trade unions on digital strategy and delivery and worked at Labour Party HQ.

A councillor in the London Borough of Southwark, he stood for Parliament in 2010.

Tom started his career in the trade union movement and has a BA in Economic Studies and an MA in Interactive Production.

Tom Mauchline, 89UP impact agency, an expert on political communications and co-author of the Strong Message Here blog

Cllr Claire Holland, Leader of Lambeth council

Emilly Wallace – Inflect Partners, strategic communications and business transformation consultancy