Geoffrey Stackhouse, managing Director, Clarity Solutions
Thomas ‘Thommo’ George, the long-running National MP for Lismore in northern NSW, is fighting for his political life against the Greens candidate Adam Guise.
There are many factors at play here, but for my money what brought Thommo down is an issue that was left to fester and has now turned into a raging crisis.
Regardless of the outcome, this is a wake-up call on complacency and a stark reminder that you need to monitor and manage issues, no matter how trivial they seem.
History shows it takes a lot to make the good Burghers of Lismore change their vote. This isn’t the hipster stronghold of Newtown or Balmain, it’s the ultra-conservative Nationals heartland, held by a massive 70 per cent of the vote since 1927.
Okay, there was a Labor blip in 1959, mostly caused by Country party infighting which led to a two vote cliff hanger and a by-election, but the seat has been kept warm by just two Nationals since then. And it has been Thommo’s cosy sinecure for the past 16 years.
The Knitting Nannas, Clarity’s favourite outrage organisation, has been quietly fomenting trouble for Thommo since they were formed in 2012.
But despite regular knit-ins outside his electoral office, Thommo point blank refuses to meet them. He has even complained to Parliament that they were harassing him.
In contrast, in early 2013 (just after Nannas cast on), Sunrise host David Koch raised the ire of breastfeeding mothers, who retaliated by staging a breastfeed-in outside the Sunrise studio.
Kochie invited them in, listened to their views and showed them respect. Kochie looked good, they aired their views and the issue died immediately. But Thommo has kept his burning, and he now looks set to pay the ultimate price for his mishandling of the situation.
What can our Nannas teach us?
Be ever vigilant: Monitor issues, listen to what people and groups are saying about your organisation. You can pay a professional but Google Alerts is free and highly effective.
Show you are listening: If people feel strongly enough to organise, show them some respect. Hear their grievances and demonstrate that you are open to their ideas. A stone wall makes for an easy target.
Remember it's rational: An issue and a crisis are very different beasts. Crises are emotionally based but issues are rational. You manage issue-based outrage with facts: hear the concerns and address them with information. Of course if you can’t muster the facts to support your case, perhaps you are actually in the wrong and need to change.
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