For firms one of the starkest short term effects of Corbyn’s first Labour leadership election victory has been the mobilisation of the new activist left.
A confluence of events has meant that corporates are under constant threat of attack. Corbyn has acted as rallying point for young people on the left, increasing the saliency of direct online action, shown that real people working together can have an impact, as well as training a generation in modern campaign techniques. This is in addition to major investment in the lefts campaigning infrastructure from the wider movement, and organisations like SumOfUs and 38Degrees reaching maturity.
Unlike previous insurgencies tied to the Labour Party the new left are not only interested in electoral success. They understand that to fundamentally reshape the UK’s political economy their actions need to be much broader. Meaning everyone is a target.
Campaigns can, to those not aware of this new landscape, seem to appear from nowhere but there are three main ways these campaigns start.
The first and most organic happens in the Facebook and WhatsApp groups that underpin the new left. Members share news articles and as a collective the group iterate strategy and tactics in the comments section.
The second is equally reactive to the news agenda but less organic and will happen in the morning “stand-ups”, slack groups and emails of campaigning organisations. Modern online mass movement organisations build their internal systems in a nimble way to allow them to push a campaign live within hours of an idea being flagged. If it gets traction they will build on it – if it does not they move on.
The third can be the hardest for companies to defend against. It is the campaign equivalent of a disruptive start-up in a market. Like start-ups they can be backed by third party investors or bootstrapped by a group of friends in their spare time. Campaigners carefully analyse their target for a weakness, they devise a strong theory of change and then build their campaign around it. They then pursue their target vociferously.
To survive, businesses need to pivot their internal monitoring and crisis preparedness process to take account for these new campaigning dynamics. The new left can mobilise quickly, businesses not on a campaign footing will simply not be able to defend themselves and see their reputation, share price and bottom line under attack.
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