Years ago, I’d been shooting some charity ads with Ken Livingstone.

He was doing it for free, so I took him to dinner.

At dinner, I told Ken my mum had voted Labour since there’d been a Labour party, right up until 1984.

At that particular election, I said to Mum “I suppose you voted Labour again, like always?”

Mum said “Not this time I didn’t”

Ken sighed and said “I know what’s coming, it was the Cenotaph wasn’t it?”

I said “That’s right: Mum said, did you see that old man wearing a donkey jacket on Remembrance Sunday?  At least Mrs Thatcher showed respect: she wore a smart black hat, black coat, and black shoes.”

Ken said “Poor old Michael, he meant well but he never understood the working class.

By wearing a donkey jacket, he thought he was showing solidarity with the workers.

What he didn’t understand was the Cenotaph is the one place you don’t do that.

Respect for the dead overrides everything else.”

I thought it was just my mum who felt like that.

But what Ken was telling me was that it cost Michael Foot the election.

All the working class felt like that, and Michael Foot hadn’t understood it.

Michael Foot was the leader of the Labour party.

He got a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University.

He studied socialism, he read all the histories and theories of left-wing politics.

He saw socialism as the constant struggle of the masses, fighting ruling class oppression.

Therefore, for Michael Foot, socialism equalled left-wing, which equalled working class.

But that isn’t true.

The left-wing doesn’t always equal the working class.

Some left-wing views do, of course: raising the poor out of poverty, decent housing for families, education for all children, hospitals for all, etc.

But not all left-wing political goals are working class goals, the working class aren’t all revolutionaries.

In fact. the working class can be conservative (small c), they can be traditional and patriotic.

This was Michael Foot’s problem.

He identified with left-wing theory, but not necessarily the working class, how could he?

For him, the working class was something he had studied, not something he was born into and grew up in.

For Michael Foot, the Cenotaph ceremony was celebrating workers sent to be slaughtered by financial robber-barons who profited from the carnage.

That’s why he wore a donkey jacket, as a left-wing protest.

But for the working class it was their brothers, dads, sons and uncles that were being remembered and honoured.

That day isn’t about politics, that day is about respect, and remembering the dead.

And that’s the difference between knowledge and data.

The statistics about who profited and grew rich are data.

Intellectually, they may be very revealing, but it doesn’t touch the feelings of the people involved.

And that’s something important to remember, for all of us whose job is about communicating with ordinary people.

Data is facts, but it isn’t necessarily the truth.


Sometimes feelings are the truth and the data isn’t.