What do we think of Total Politics?

What do we think of Total Politics?


    Is it going to fill a gap in the market?

The new monthly glossy magazine, Total Politics, was launched at a glitzy party in Westminster last night and has the potential to become a must read for all those interested in the mechanics of elections and predicting political outcomes. The main backer, Michael Ashcroft, and Iain Dale believe there is a real gap in the market for a publication that takes this area of activity seriously and I am sure that we all wish them well.

Most of the articles are available online though the web designers seem to have done all they can to make them hideously difficult to read. Just check this page out to see what I mean. That awful small font with all the text compressed together – maybe they want you to go to W.H. Smith and buy it?

There was much discussion over the Pimms and canopies last night over whether putting Gordon Brown on the cover was a good idea. Just as magazines used to report increased sales whenever Princess Diana was on the front you wonder whether there will be a reverse effect when you feature the most unpopular Labour leader for decades. The photography is great but perhaps they should have stuck with the pre-launch dummy concept and kept Barack Obama there?

    But what will determine whether Total Politics survives is the content – will it have things each month that the target market regards as a must read? If so it will build an audience and the advertising will follow.

The first thing I turned to when I got on the train home last night was the interview with Lynton Crosby – the Australian campaign guru who guided Boris Johnson to victory in May. This was billed on the cover as “How Boris won?” and I was looking for details of the thinking and the practical actions that saw the Tory contender’s vote and the turnout soar in the outer London boroughs – something that was analysed and discussed at length here a fortnight after the election by Sean Fear.

Maybe it was the format – an interview with the highly paid consultant – but I don’t think that we got what those with a keen interest in the mechanics of how elections operate are looking for. It simply did not add much to our understanding and the only thing that I took from the article was Crosby’s repeated statement “Message matters most”.

The other political bombshell in the run up to the Total Politics launch was Crewe and Nantwich. I would have loved a serious analysis of how the main campaigns operated and how the massive increase in the expected turnout level had blown the Labour effort out of the water. There is a short feature “Learning Lessons from Crewe and Nantwich” which hardly tells us a thing and I could not quite see the point of it.

So my verdict: the concept is great; the website is almost unreadable; and the editors really need to work much harder on producing content on things that the target audience wants to find out about. But this was a first issue and there is enough talent in Iain Dale’s team to make this work.

What I have not done here is address the ownership/publisher issue which on the face of it makes it appear to be an in-house Tory publication and one or two of the other articles which I will feature in separate posts.

Mike Smithson

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