While I was in London, the Daily Mail opened a campaign — and quickly declared victory — to ban ecologically dangerous plastic bags from stores. Even the Guardian praised it as Martin Kettle said the Mail set an example for government of finding a problem and just solving it (see also Google).
His point is about government and society but I also see a lesson here for American newspaeprs, which in my day, children, used to crusade. They picked a problem and found a solution and then stacked the deck to take credit for solving it. But at least it got solved. Where did that spirit go?
Here’s Kettle on the Mail and its lessons:
Once the Mail went into action the outcome was settled. Ten pages on Wednesday, seven more on Thursday, another four on Friday and the job was done. The Banish the Bags campaign was well planned, well focused, well judged, well timed and was executed on a scale and with a ruthlessness that would have impressed Bismarck. M&S was lined up in advance to create a second-day wave with its 5p-per-bag charge announcement. . . .
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Labour politicians could learn more valuable practical lessons from what the Mail has done this week than from anything that Barack Obama is doing. This is not a fashionable view. Entranced by Obama’s success, every minister wants to know what he’s taking and how to get some of it for themselves. If only we too could somehow be like Obama, they say, trust and respect would flood back into the dried-up riverbed of British politics. But this is purest delusion. Most of Obama is not hard currency. It doesn’t transfer outside the American market. Forget it. . . .
On the other hand there are three lessons from the Mail campaign that really might be worth attention from our politicians. First, why does it take a newspaper to state the obvious and to get something done about it? . . .
Second, look what can be achieved by identifying a problem, deciding what should happen instead, and planning a strategy that can make it succeed. Modern politics has mislaid that hugely important skill. . . .
Third, isn’t it interesting that Britain is full of people who are keen and ready to respond to a call to do the right thing? . . .
Plastic bags are a problem. They can be reduced by leaders proposing clear solutions and promoting good norms. Don’t make people feel guilty. Don’t always reach for new laws. Help people also to feel they can make a difference and that things can be done differently and better. The Daily Mail understood that. The future may belong to the politicians who understand it too.