For the last two years I’ve been a judge for the Reed Awards, which recognise campaign excellence in the United States. The thing I enjoy judging the most are the TV ads. The downside of this is that I often cringe when watch campaign videos from the UK. More often than not they’re too long and badly thought through.
This election though has been something of a breath of fresh air. And with that in mind, I present my Top 5 campaign videos:
Number Five – 13 Years of Labour:
At almost 10 minutes you might be surprised that this is on the list, but the like the video which comes in at number 4 it has a cohesive narrative and pulls the reader from start to finish.
Number Four – Against the Odds:
The video which apparently makes Ellie Gellard cry (no doubt while she’s swilling champagne on a yacht with mummy on daddy). But Ellie aside, this is a brilliant video. The music brings the piece to life and the video as a whole hits all the right emotional buttons.
Number Three – Do You Really Know Ed Balls?:
Like it or not, attack ads can be very effective. And as attack ads go, this is a very good one. It relies entirely on facts and uses Labour’s Toff attacks against them. Nicely put together, and the use of a real Morley accent for narration is inspired.
Number Two – Turn Things Upside Down:
Very clever, very very clever. And what’s more, it delivers a powerful emotional turnaround.
And in at Number One – The Bell End Campaign:
Simply superb. Humour often backfires, but not in this case. And what’s more it uses local people to deliver the message. As campaign videos go, this is by far the best I’ve seen in the UK.
Here’s the final PEB:
My verdict: positive, full of vision, dynamic. Exactly what’s needed.
In the last issue of Total Politics I wrote a piece about the future of GOTV. Suffice to say, the ‘Reading system’ we use of here to get voters out on polling day is not long of this world.
The future isn’t here yet, but in the State’s they’re already using it. Here’s an extract from my article:
“Over in the United States one campaign company, First Tuesday in November (FTIN), has developed a platform that gives some indication of the direction in which we might see our parties moving in the not too distant future. Managing partner of FTIN David Cerrone explains that polling day GOTV operations in US campaigns suffer from exactly the same problem as their British counterparts: that a paper-based system is too slow and data is always out of date when it reaches volunteers in the field. The solution, according to Cerrone, is to take advantage of wireless technology.
FTIN has developed a system where volunteers at polling stations are equipped with Blackberries containing a full list of voters in the area. Once an individual casts their vote, the volunteer then searches for them on the Blackberry and crosses them off the list. That volunteer’s Blackberry updates the system at party headquarters – ensuring that those coordinating the GOTV effort know, in real-time, who has voted – and updates additional Blackberries which are held by volunteers engaged in knocking-up.”
Read the whole article here.
Yesterday I was interviewed by Channel 5 News for a segment which will be broadcast today at 5pm. The subject of the interview was two-fold:
1) Would a hung parliament be a bad thing; and
2) Should we replace first-past-the-post with proportional representation
I recommend tuning in this evening to see the segment (not least because I got to tour around Westminster in a 1979 convertible Mercedes), but in the meantime I wanted to flesh out the points I made on film.
There’s a notion flying around at the moment that a hung parliament is a ‘balanced parliament’. Rubbish. For sure, I understand using the term ‘balanced’; it makes the notion of a hung parliament that bit more appealing. But a hung parliament is ultimately one where nobody gets what they voted for.
Let me repeat that, in a hung parliament, nobody gets what they voted for.
If you vote Labour you do so because you want to see a Labour government. If you vote Conservative, you do so because you want a Conservative government. And if you vote LibDem, you do so because you want a LibDem government. Simple.
But in the event of a hung parliament you don’t get the government you voted for, you get a twisted amalgamation in which the manifestos the governing parties stood for election on are thrown out the door in favour of backroom deals in which votes are traded for concessions.
Remember, the political parties weren’t even prepared to hold their negotiations about the leaders debate rules in public. Do you honestly think they’ll hold their
horse-trading sessions negotiations about legislation in public?
Of course they won’t. The doors will be closed and the blinds will be pulled down. All to ensure that proper scrutiny is kept away from the process of government.
That’s what a hung parliament would mean. And that’s why, above the many other notable reasons, a hung parliament is bad for democracy and bad for the country.
And that’s precisely why proportional representation should never grace these shores with it’s despicable presence. Under a system of proportional representation, hung parliaments would become the rule rather than the exception.
Yes, on the face of it, proportional representation seems to produce a more representative system. But in reality it produces the least representative system of all.
Under proportional representation, you never get what you vote for. Voted Labour? Tough. Voted Conservative? Tough. Voted LibDem? Tough. Instead you get the kind of parliament described above. One in which proper scrutiny all but disappears and the process of government becomes hostage to the narrow interests of those few individuals or individual parties which can swing the vote in a given direction.
In a few days thousands of volunteers will be going door-to-door in an attempt to get their supporters to the polls, and in the period up to that point those same volunteers will be working hard to persuade floating voters to support their party.
With that in mind, perhaps the following will be of some use to those who need to close the deal*:
* For those without a sense of humour, this is a joke
One of my favourite quotes comes from the Count of Monte Christo, in which Edmond Dantes says to Albert de Morcerf:
“Life is a storm my young friend, you will bask in the sunlight one moment be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.”
Too true. And as Tories, we would do well to consider those words as we face this latest trial which the election has set before us. Until quite recently, the prospect of a Conservative victory at the coming election appeared to be the most likely of a range of outcomes. But then came the debates.
It’s no secret that we didn’t really want a debate (let alone three). We simply went for the same trick you see in almost every election; one candidate calls for a debate with the other in the full knowledge that that other candidate will decline the invitation, thus allowing the candidate proposing the debate to call the other one a coward (thus scoring a few points). Sadly though, on this occasion, Sky News called the bluff and launched a campaign which ultimately delivered the debates which have now had such an incredible impact on the polls*.
And now we find ourselves facing the very real prospect of a hung parliament. Poll after poll would have us believe that the only question is whether we or Labour will have more seats in such a scenario. But any Conservative who who thinks defeat is about to be snatched from the jaws of victory should take a step back and remember that ten days is a long time in politics. Between now and polling day, a lot can happen, and the signs are already there that an outright majority is still very much on the table.
Whilst the national polls might be showing that a hung parliament is almost certain, we’ve known for some time that this will not be an election of national swings. Rather than a single national election, this is really a number of individual elections in those critically important marginals. The efforts of the Conservative campaigns in those constituencies have the potential to make the difference between victory and defeat.
On top of that we know that historically, our vote share on polling day tends to increase relative to our position in the polls averaged over the month prior to polling day (just as Labour’s vote share decreases when compared to that average):
The LibDem vote has historically gone up by a few points, but it’s important to remember that this reflects the bump LibDems always receive as a result of increased exposure over the course of the campaign. And in this election it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the LibDem exposure bump has already peaked.
That said, even though national polls aren’t telling the whole story, the fact is that the debates have been bad for us. And whilst we knew that Clegg would gain advantage from them, it’s clear that the advantage he has gained is significantly greater than even the most optimistic LibDem could have hoped for.
However, it’s equally clear that both Clegg and Brown have reached their debate peak in terms of performance. Cameron, on the other hand, has the capacity to raise his game significantly. And if can do that this Thursday, the prospect of a Conservative majority could well move from ‘still on the table’ to most likely outcome.
Don’t forget, Cameron is a world class communicator. Just consider any of his Cameron Direct events. Unscripted and unedited, he takes questions directly from members of the audience (with no forewarning of what those questions might be) and answers without reference to notes. Cameron engages in a conversation with the questioner and the audience as a whole. And you know what, when he does that he consistently knocks the ball out of the park.
And when Cameron displays anger, it’s justified. It’s a reaction to perceived injustice and a reflection of his deep-rooted commitment to building a better Britain in which opportunity is abundant and the power of the individual is prioritised over the power of the state. And, what’s more, when used correctly it demonstrates to the public how much he wants to be Prime Minister.
And therein lies an important point. If Cameron is to succeed (and by succeed, I mean dominate) in the final debate of the campaign, he needs to be Cameron. Indeed, if evidence were needed to support this argument, one need look no further than the differences between Cameron’s first debate performance and his second.
In the first debate Cameron lacked passion and came across as rather vanilla. If one were to characterise the strategy for the first debate, you might describe it as being an attempt to avoid taking risks and avoid doing anything which might upset someone.
In the second debate however, hints of the real Cameron broke through (but didn’t dominate). ‘Conviction Cameron’ was on display and when it was his determination to lead the UK in a brave new direction was utterly clear. He looked and sounded like a leader. Sincerity flowed from his delivery. And, frankly, he blasted Clegg and Brown out of the water. But, and it’s a big but, the real Cameron was on display for only brief moments during the debate; with vanilla Cameron being the dominate element of his performance.
And so we come to the third debate. Who will win, the vanilla Cameron from the ‘don’t take any risks’ strategy or the real Cameron who connects with people in a way that Brown and Clegg can only dream of?
The prospect of a Conservative majority is still very much on the table, and Tories should bear that in mind when polls come up suggesting a hung parliament. But it is Cameron who has within his power the ability to transform the possible into the almost certain.
And I for one believe fundamentally that Cameron may very well deliver the performance of a lifetime on Thursday evening.
*The irony of course is that Sky News, or rather Sky as a whole, actively wants to see the Conservatives win the election, as they believe a Conservative government would likely overturn OfComs ruling that Sky must sell some of its content to other providers (e.g. Virgin) at a price set by OfCom.
[Hat tip: thanks to Andrew Hawkins for the above table]
It’s no secret, I’m a big fan of my borough, Wandsworth. I’ve live there for a couple of years now and, frankly, it’s great. Brilliant local services, lowest council tax in the country, excellent restaurants and bars, superb parks, the list goes on.
They’ve also produced a short video which really captures why it’s a brilliant place to live: