The election campaign so far has shown the extent to which political parties will spend time smearing other party campaigns. It is easier for politicians to criticise other parties than sell their own policies. Right now, none more so than the Conservatives and Labour. I myself was startled to see an unsettling YouTube advert where Alex Salmond moves to London and begins to make Ed Miliband dance like a puppet.
This was of course part of the Tory general election campaign. In the previous election, Labour didn’t think of their own ideological ideas for a poster, as they simply turned around a poster depicting Cameron as favourite TV detective Gene Hunt into a sign that Cameron would bring Britain “back to the 1980s,” whilst the Tories said that Labour would “turn Great Britain into Little Britain.”
Labour’s latest efforts involve a spin on a 70s anti-Labour campaign, where people under a Conservative government queue up to see a GP.
The fight has been taken online, where parties encourage voters to share Photoshopped images of opponents. One particular Twitter exchange had the Conservatives tweet a picture of Alex Salmond with Ed Miliband safely in his pocket, to which someone replied with a picture of Rupert Murdoch, with David Cameron safely in his pocket. Arguably much of this behaviour is in cheap taste.
The problem with this kind of campaigning nowadays is that it disillusions voters. In the past it may have worked. An example of this is when the Conservative supporting Sun newspaper ran the headline “If Kinnock Wins Today, Will the Last Person to Leave Britain Please Turn out the Lights?” and then the Tories won. Many historians have since attributed Kinnock’s loss to the impact of the Sun’s campaign.
However, in the new world of politics where smaller parties such as the Greens and UKIP are splitting voters more than ever, it is not enough to just give a message “not to vote for the other guy” because there is no longer a guarantee that the lost voter will come over to your side.
Many might argue that a vote for a populist party is still one vote less for the opponent, but it’s definitely a gamble for the party spending money on smear campaigns.
In short, the political parties need to demonstrate more reasons for people to vote for them- maybe then we would see a decrease in people refusing to vote. Alongside this, we wouldn’t need to hastily scrabble together coalitions after the election.
So if any Labour or Conservative PR people read Gair Rhydd, I hope they would consider putting policies of their own party into their adverts from now on,. We should move away from politics which works by showing opponents as insane puppeteers.