Running a Successful Campaign?

There are all sorts of ideas around about how to run a successful campaign. The general advice seems to be along the following lines:-

1) be passionate, be enthusiastic about your campaign;

2) be focused, have a clear vision and ambition;

3) be organised, make sure people know what they have to do;

4) be creative;

5) put heart and humanity at the centre; and

6) make sure you get lots of partners.

Putting all this in the context of Yorkshire devolution is interesting because it becomes obvious that this is not a campaign but more of a movement which is fragmented at best.

The “One Yorkshire” organisation is campaigning for Yorkshire devolution based around the geography of the Yorkshire and Humber region with an elected mayor at its head. The Yorkshire Devolution Movement is campaigning for Yorkshire devolution based on the geography of the traditional county of Yorkshire. The Yorkshire Party is campaigning for a Yorkshire assembly with meaningful powers based around the concept of subsidiarity. The Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament is campaigning for a devolved parliament and government for the county of Yorkshire based on the geography of the traditional county. There are various other organisations, including ourselves, campaigning for something along the lines of the above in various forms and combinations.

It would not be true to say that these organisations work in isolation because there is certainly a level of cooperation between them. In many instances, though, this is more communication than actual cooperation. It would also not be true to say that little has been achieved because a few years ago Yorkshire devolution was not even on the political agenda whereas now it is firmly established, although in various forms, most of which do not fully meet the expectations of the proponents.

Michael Meadowcroft, former Leeds city councillor and MP for Leeds West from 1983-87, recently stated in an article published in the Yorkshire Post “The campaign for “One Yorkshire” has stalled. Unless and until it is actively promoted across Yorkshire, it will never command the power and influence it needs to become a reality.” I believe that he is absolutely right on this point but there are other issues in play here. One Yorkshire at least provides some form of lead, if not leadership. If One Yorkshire has stalled, then that “lead” must be replaced in order to allow the idea of devolution to Yorkshire to flourish.

Again, Michael Meadowcroft is right when he says: “The aim is to build up a broad team of well-informed proponents across Yorkshire able to spread the case for One Yorkshire and to be effective in twisting the arms of MPs and ministers. It is no use leaving it to politicians within the existing local councils. It has to capture the hearts and minds of our neighbours who have the awareness and determination to make change happen.”

The question for the devolution movement as a whole is if local politicians are unable or unwilling to take the movement forward, who will? One Yorkshire actually depends on local authority support so if that is no longer forthcoming, then that aspect of the devolution project could well fail.

The Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament may be in the best position to pick up the mantle as it is already trying to build a consensus movement but this is a tiny organisation that is relatively new, with extremely limited resources and an “executive committee” that is already stretched. Then there are issues of status, expertise and experience. Nobody within the movement outside the local authorities has anything near the status or expertise required to take the cause forward.

While the key issues currently facing the movement are around leadership, organisation and resources, we also need to focus on forming a cohesive campaign that we can all get behind. If “One Yorkshire” is to succeed, then the local authorities sponsoring the initiative need to support it with renewed vigour. The rest of the movement can then support this leadership and get behind the campaign on the understanding that this is the first stage on our path to a Yorkshire regional government and a Yorkshire parliament.

If the local authorities fail to support “One Yorkshire” then the movement might be better advised to go all out for a Yorkshire parliament and regional government without any intermediate steps. We have the vision. We have the passion. We now need to get the message out there as a matter of urgency. What unites us is far greater than that which divides us, so we really need to work together to achieve our common goals. Whether we can achieve success depends on all of us, but we did not come this far to fail.

The devolution movement, as a whole, needs to build a cohesive campaign, that all constituent members can get behind, and take this to the Yorkshire public as a matter of urgency.
If One Yorkshire is to be a part of this campaign, then leadership and support needs to be provided by the sponsoring authorities.
The devolution movement, as a whole, needs to address its organisation and leadership issues.

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