The Jury Team fails to ‘Make me an MP’

I watched last night’s programme on BBC1 called ‘Make me an MP’ – it followed John Smeaton’s attempt to win the recent Glasgow North-East by-election. (You can see it on iPlayer here until 25th November).

And if you don’t know, John Smeaton was the baggage handler who ‘chinned’ one of the Glasgow airport terrorists.

The first thing to say is that it was a good programme and that was of course it’s primary aim, so any conclusions we might want to draw are influenced by the filming/editing process. That said there were some interesting points to consider with regards to independent MPs.

Overall, John Smeaton came across as a nice, engaging guy who genuinely had an interest in his local area – there was one nice bit where he was passionately concerned about the amount of dog mess on the streets.

However, he didn’t seem to understand the level of work that was involved – firstly to kiss all the babies and shake all the hands on the campaign trail, but also once in parliament. The expectation from the voters is that you’re working all the time for them, that you never stop trying to help improve their lot – and possibly even more so if you’re an independent – and that the effort put into the campaign is possibly a good indication for voters of the effort you will put into the job you do in Parliament.

The main feeling though, was that he was let down by The Jury Team.

The programme itself was a publicity coup for The Jury Team, but in the end it was bad PR as they came across quite badly.

One element was particularly painful to watch and that was the initial press release. John Smeaton was crucified by the media attending it and it seemed that it was his ‘support’ from The Jury Team that was picked up most.

Now, he had obviously been very badly briefed by whoever was working with him and not only had he not been given details about what policies were held, but he wasn’t even given the most basic media training on how to deflect difficult questions.

At that press conference the scepticism of the media was frightening – was it for The Jury Team, was it for the candidate, or was it (most frightening of all) because he was an independent?

While the Bonfire Night stunt was clearly a stupid, stupid idea from the very moment it was mentioned. The candidate himself was “livid” and it was at this point he felt he was being let down by The Jury Team. John’s dad said it best when he said, “The Jury Team should not treat Parliament with contempt.”

In the end John beat other fringe candidates (including an ex-Big Brother contestant), but still came a distant 8th with just 258 votes (Labour won with 12,231).

In the final analysis it felt like John Smeaton had been let down by The Jury Team. While they offered some financial backing that allowed him to stand (as he may not have been able to without it), they also wanted to hijack the campaign.

The Jury Team talks about wanting to support independent MPs, but it doesn’t, it wants people who are not affiliated to a mainstream party – which is very different. The Jury Team, or possible Sir Paul Judge, seems to want to use ‘independent’ candidates to promote its own agenda, i.e. become a political party through the back door.

This is a long, long way from supporting true independents.

The show did finish with a nice quote. As John Smeaton looked back on his failed campaign he was pleased to have tried:

“The most honourable thing to do in politics is to stand as an independent.”

5 Responses to The Jury Team fails to ‘Make me an MP’

  1. Dziet says:

    Let’s insert some facts shall we?

    1) The Press conference was handled by a professional PR company hired by Jury Team. Smeaton was briefed *extensively* for a week and given two days dedicated media training. With only 10 days between meeting Jury Team and the Press Conference (arranged at the Sun’s insistence) what more could have been done? The man failed to do any research on Jury Team – he thought being a celebrity was enough.

    2) Smeaton had already decided to stand as an independent before Jury Team talked to him. The BBC documentary team were arranged through the Sun and were part of the package Jury Team inherited.

    3) The Guy Fawkes stunt was a deliberate attempt by Smeaton to use a complicit camera crew to engineer a situation whereby he could get Jury Team to back off and leave him at home playing his x-box. Smeaton’s mate suggested the idea. Jury Team were just glad to hear him suggest anything. The way it was portrayed by the documentary crew is a million miles from the truth and I understand lawyers are being consulted.

    4) Smeaton’s “campaign” didn’t exist. He wanted to speak at dinner parties and get his message across in his newspaper column. Every time the word “work” was mentioned, he took ill. Literally. His asthma strikes at amazing times really. Everything he actually did was arranged by Jury Team – the visits, the briefings, the work at the playground, supporting the football team. His only contribution to “policy” was to say he wanted to “give youth a chance”, whatever that meant.

    Jury Team didn’t “hijack” Smeaton’s campaign. He didn’t have a campaign.

    Smeaton did this purely as a stunt to raise his profile. He now thinks he can charge £1000 a time appearance money. The Sun backed him to raise readership levels. Notably, they’re cosying up to the Tory Party down south and the Tory Party have an axe to grind with their former Governor Paul Judge. The TV Crew were trying to make a name for themselves.

    Jury Team were suckerpunched. They were naive and wandered into the seedy world of Glasgow politics without a clue. They were hampered by most of their staff quitting in disgust at Johns laziness. The girl handling the press in the film was their fourth try.

    I wouldn’t try to analyse a political party on the basis of a sensationalised and inaccurate BBC documentary.

  2. Dziet says:

    And yes, I’m one of those that quit in disgust. Why should I work 16 hour days when that lazy git thinks he can show up for a few afternoons a week, so long as it isn’t raining?

    • Patrick says:

      Dziet

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I’m sorry if my article upset you, but I was calling it as I saw it from the TV programme (I can’t do any more than that).

      To answer a couple of your points – I did say right at the beginning of the article that it was a TV programme and that “any conclusions we might want to draw are influenced by the filming/editing process”. I also clearly stated that John Smeaton did not appear to “understand the level of work that was involved”.

      But what I do think is interesting is that, if there were these issues, The Jury Team adopted the candidate at all. If it was something that he had decided to do anyway and was being backed by The Scottish Sun, why get involved if not for publicity and profile.

      It seems to me that this was an attempt to raise the profile of The Jury Team and less about the candidate – and I think that the on the ground staff were caught in the middle of a phoney war.

      One thing you say though is particularly interesting:
      “I wouldn’t try to analyse a political party on the basis of a sensationalised and inaccurate BBC documentary.”

      This is at the heart of my issues with The Jury Team. It is not about independent MPs – it is a political party of non-affiliated candidates, ultimately hoping to push through its own agenda.

      This is very, very different from being a supported of independents.

      I’d love to chat about this further – either on here or even face-to-face (I did ask The Jury Team for a meeting a long time, but have been ignored). If The Jury Team is genuine about helping genuine independents, then I’d be happy to help them. I suspect it’s not, but I’d be happy to been shown otherwise.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Independent MPs, Independent MPs. Independent MPs said: RT @patrickjpr: [Blog] The Jury Team fails to ‘Make me an MP’: http://wp.me/pxAyU-24 […]

  4. […] from The Jury Team After the recent BBC1 programme called Make me an MP I wrote a post called The Jury Team fails to ‘Make Me an MP’ and I was pleased to receive comments from someone who had been involved in the campaign to get John […]

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