I went to supper at the small but deliciously formed Texture restaurant in Portman Street last night with our clients, the government of South Australia, hosted by the Agent General, Bill Muirhead, to celebrate the First Family of Australian wine production.
I sat next to Robert Hill Smith, who runs the Yalumba winery. Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery – it was set up in 1849 by Robert’s great great-grandfather, a Dorset brewer called Samuel Smith who emigrated to Australia, made some money from gold and set up the winery which he named after the indigenous Australian word for “all the land around”.
Also there was someone who knows a fair bit about all the land around – or around politics at the least; Lynton Crosby. He masterminded several Australian election victories for John Howard, the failed 2005 election campaign for the Conservatives and Boris Johnson’s successful mayoral campaign. So when he started to talk about the recent election, I could not help but listen intently.
His overview was fascinating – and his insights into the pollster scene particularly so. According to Lynton, the pollster scene is littered with charlatans claiming that they worked on the Obama campaign. If you Google search for people who worked for the Obama campaign, he says, you’ll get 80,000 who claim they did. The real people are keeping a deliberately low profile.
He also thinks that Nick Clegg’s big mistake was not hiring a young team of hotshot social media whizzes to orchestrate a social media campaign for the Lib Dems. There’s nobody good working with political social media, Lynton told me. If Clegg had hired outside the usual boxes, he would have made a bigger impact – in his own right, rather than as kingmaker. He was the one candidate that could have benefited from a small, dedicated group of switched on social geeks.