IC HUB

Can internal communication heal government cracks?

August 8, 2017

Infighting in politics is nothing new, but it has reached new levels within the Conservative Party following the General Election.

Could a more effective use of internal communications help unite this fractured Government?

The Conservative Party seems split on almost every issue, from Brexit, public-sector pay, its agreement with the DUP, and even who should lead.

For some onlookers, it’s amusing.

Those who don’t like politicians – and there’s plenty of them! – are delighted to watch the Conservatives crumble at a time when they were supposed to have increased their majority.

But the open warfare within the party has serious implications.

Whatever your views on politics, the fact is the Tories will be responsible – at least in the short-term – for shaping our relationship with Europe, deciding the financial future of our healthcare and education systems, and handling all the other day-to-day duties of government.

How will they get anything done when they’re so divided?

According to Dr Darren Lilleker, Associate Professor of Political Communication at Bournemouth University, one of the contributing factors to the Tories’ current plight is that MPs don’t feel they’re being listened to.

“Most parties – probably quite surprisingly to anybody who is an internal communication expert – don’t really have a structure for IC,” he explained.

“Most politicians and political parties make the assumption that members will follow the leaders almost blindly. They’re almost surprised when people say ‘I don’t agree with something.’

“They have an email system. They do communicate, but it’s persuasive communication. What’s lacking is a structure for a two-way process.”

“Anyone can fire an email off, but if they get an automated response and then no follow-up in two or three days they may think ‘no one has listened to me. I’m going to find another way of making these people listen.’

So could listening – really listening – to MPs concerns help the Government in a meaningful way?

Dr Lilleker said: “MPs want face-to-face communication. They feel they have a mandate and they want to be heard. They expect to be able to have an audience.

“When there’s something serious happening and a party feels it needs to be speaking with a single voice on an issue, that’s when you have a lot more face-to-face communication.

“While it is useful to allow people to be heard, it’s also very difficult. Theresa May and the rest of the Conservative Party hierarchy know that some people will never be brought on board. They just have to shrug.

“You can’t move some people, so there’s no point in including them in a discussion because you know what they’re going to say. We have that in every workplace.

“But for those who then feel that their perhaps extreme view is not being represented and that negotiations are moving towards a more centre ground, that’s when they start to rebel.

“A party leader has to judge who is going to be a rebel no matter what happens, and who can be brought in and made part of the process.”

“Most parties – probably quite surprisingly to anybody who is an internal communication expert – don’t really have a structure for IC.

“Most politicians and political parties make the assumption that members will follow the leaders almost blindly. They’re almost surprised when people say ‘I don’t agree with something.’"