5 Maverick Lessons from the British General Election
What the hell happened there then? Last Thursday's election saw British politics turned on it's head where the victor was the loser, and the loser was the victor. Before Thursday, few could have predicted the outcome that saw Theresa May lose her majority and Jeremy Corbyn's ascent.
Regardless of the outcome and whatever your politics, it is clear that this marked a different course in British politics to where anyone would have predicted even a few months ago. Indeed, when the election was called on 19th April 2017, many predicted (myself included) a Tory landslide and a resolute march towards a hard Brexit. Instead, as a friend of mine put it, "God bless the British public - they found a way to deliver 'none of the above' when that wasn't even an option on the ballot paper."
Corbyn claimed that "politics has changed" and "isn't going back into the box where it was before". Surely the definition of a Maverick election?
For every Maverick to unleash their superpowers and make their mark, there are some great lessons to take from this election. Here are 5:
Sometimes You Have to Pivot
We have written a lot recently about the notion of pivots - those times in life when change is coming, and it shifts the course of where you head. We have also talked about how you can accelerate and maximise your pivots.
Nowhere can this be seen more than in Jeremy Corbyn. One year ago, after the Brexit referendum, Corbyn faced a mutiny by his shadow cabinet that led to a vote of no-confidence by the Parliamentary Labour Party and a leadership challenge. Despite winning the leadership contest, even in February 2017, his approval rating was -38% against Theresa May's +53% (a 91% gap).
How on earth then did he end up where he did on the morning of 9th June? He pivoted.
He did something different to the norm. Sometimes in a pivot moment, things are so bad that you almost just say "f*ck it" and go for it. That pretty much seems to be what happened.
On 5th April, just before the election was called, his approval rating was -39%. By 1st June - just a week before the election - it was +56%. In the same period, Theresa May with her mantra of "strong and stable" fell from -4% on 1st April to -64% on 1st June.
It seems like the tried and trusted path wasn't the key to success. Something different was needed.
Mavericks Transform Their World
"Unelectable" was a word heavily associated with Jeremy Corbyn long before the election campaign started. Whether from his party, political opponents or the general public, Corbyn just wasn't seen as a viable Prime Minister.
After a year of severe distrust in politicians following the Brexit referendum (remember the NHS £365M/week promise?), Jeremy Corbyn took the path of the Maverick. His campaign hallmarks were authenticity and compassion, built in the notion of "for the many, not the few".
As Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda put it in the Huffington Post, "Corbyn had the ideal profile for our current historical moment... An outsider at a time when people are beyond tired of establishment insiders; pilloried by the elite and undermined by his party’s establishment, yet carried by people-power...scruffy and unpolished at a time when slick, talking-points-driven robots are well past their use-by date; integrity and consistent morals for over 30 years in an era where trust in politics is at its lowest."
In our world, Mavericks are true-hearted, authentic people who want to make their mark in this world. Whatever popular opinion has been of Corbyn, he has always stuck to his principles and that kind of consistency and integrity breeds trust. In our book, Corbyn is a Maverick.
Do Something Radically Different
Not only has Corbyn embodied somewhat different values to most modern politicians, but he has also been willing to go way beyond what most are willing to do to connect with his potential followers.
While traditional media has long been the mainstay for influencing politics, Corbyn has recognised that 'young people' are amongst his strongest potential supporters. So, he engaged with them on their terms.
Grime artist JME quizzed Corbyn on why young people should register to vote. Corbyn's response was down-to-earth, credible and not 'trying too hard'. The video went viral on GRM Daily, Youtube and Snapchat Discover.
Corbyn made a surprise appearance at a Libertines concert to 20,000 fans and was met with a "rapturous reception". He then appeared on Copa90 with Poet & Vuj, so far removed from mainstream media but appearing relaxed and at home, bringing politics in a way that resonates for Generation Z.
Play The Long Game
If there is one thing that we can certainly learn from Corbyn's journey as a Maverick, it is that strength, confidence and resilience are needed.
A report by Loughborough University in May 2017 found that newspapers and TV were far more likely to attack Labour and Corbyn than the Conservatives. This followed a report by the London School of Economics in July 2016 which suggest that "Corbynissystematicallyridiculed, scornedandtheobjectofpersonalattacksbymostnewspapers." It also emerged in the last few days that the Conservatives had paid more than £1.2M for negative Facebook ads against Labour and Corbyn.
Being a Maverick then is not an easy thing to be.
More than anything though, Corbyn has played the long game. He has been known for his view, ethics and principles since he was elected in 1983. This consistency and unswerving nature are what gives him credibility. Love him or loathe him, you know what he stands for.
The lesson for us Mavericks is that the path for most of us is not always the easiest, often goes against the grain and so requires resilience to stay the course. However, more than that Corbyn illustrates that patience and playing the long game are ultimately what makes a difference. Timing is everything.
You Can't Do It By Yourself
Derek Sivers believes that in starting a movement, it is not the leader who is important but the first follower. "It is the first follower who transforms the 'lone nut' into a leader". As Mavericks, we simply can't create our dent in the universe without mobilised and galvanised followers and collaborators.
This kind of mobilisation was one of the key factors for what happened on 8th June. For example, to mobilise their supporters, Momentum (the grassroots campaigning network supporting Corbyn and Labour) utilised a WhatsApp cascade reminding 400,000 young people to vote that could be easily shared with their friends.
Another feature of the election was the notion of tactical voting and the "progressive alliance" - a sort of loose collaboration where in some constituencies, only the leading opposition party would field a candidate so as to not split the vote against the Conservatives.
So, another lesson for us Mavericks is that even when facing what seems like an inevitable outcome, finding ways to collaborate with like-minded allies, strategically marshalling resources and galvanising our supporters is absolutely a way to create change.
It's Not About The Win; It's About The Change
All of this may seem like some strange kind of celebration of "progressive" politics when the fact is that the Conservative Party still got the most seats in Parliament.
However, that misses the point. What the dramatic ascent of Corbyn and Labour in a matter of weeks has shown us is that Mavericks are catalyst agents. Without the catalyst, the change cannot happen, but the catalyst requires the right conditions or else it is inert. Before the election, Corbyn did not have the impact that he now enjoys. It was the conditions that the election created that brought him to life.
That, in turn, has changed the face of current British politics. That is the real point here. Corbyn and the progressive alliance might have won the election in the short term, but in the long term might have just caused a pivot in the direction of the UK. It might even be that their best role may not be to govern (which requires being mainstream) but in being a supremely effective opposition to a minority government.
That might just be the biggest Maverick lesson of all - don't want what the mainstream majority have. Pursue what authentically calls to you, stay the course and follow it with all your heart...and in the end, you may just succeed in ways you could never have predicted.