Friday, April 09, 2010

This Campaign Is Too Presidential

With the election campaign less than four days old, it is developing into the most presidential of modern times. In some ways this is not surprising, as the introduction of TV debates between the party leaders almost guarantees it will take on a presidential mood. But the media seem totally uninterested in reporting any event unless it involves one of the three party leaders. If Cameron, Brown or Clegg aren't appearing, there isn't a camera or microphone in sight. Perhaps the three party organisations want it that way, but there are many downsides to this approach.

Firstly, it puts a huge burden on Brown, Cameron and Clegg. Very few people would have the stamina to withstand this daily level of activity, with no time for rest or thought or proper preparation.

Secondly, it shortchanges the electorate who deserve a wider discussion of policy issues. Governments are not one man teams - or at least, good governments aren't. The Conservatives in particular need to find ways of showcasing the talent on their front bench. Media friendly faces need to be pushed to the fore. This shouldn't be done by means of horrible stunts which guarantee the presence of cameras.

The Liberal Democrat campaign has so far just concentrated on attacks on the other parties- mainly the Conservatives. They have hardly mentioned their own policies. If you think that's just me being partisan take a look at this word cloud, created from speeches made by Nick Clegg.

You can see the equivalent word clouds for Brown and Cameron HERE. The two key words in Brown's speeches are "British" and "People". Cameron's are "Country" and "Change". The fact that Clegg's two favourite words are "Labour" and "Conservative" says it all. However, perhaps we should ask if this is part of a deliberate strategy.

Interestingly, despite "Brown" featuring in the Clegg Word Cloud, there's not a single mention of Cameron in his speeches. That cannot be a coincidence and has to be a deliberate policy.

There's no doubt that Clegg has had a good week in terms of the amount of coverage he has attracted. Perhaps they have decided the only way they can get quantity of coverage is at the expense of quality - and attacking the other two parties gets the media juices flowing.

I can't think of a single new policy the LibDems have come up with this week. In fact, I can't think of any new Labour ones either. This week has been dominated by the Tory NI proposal and their ideas on creating a National Community Service.

And that is why the Conservatives have led the agenda for the first three days of the campaign. And I don't think you have to be a Conservative to acknowledge that.


Unknown said...

Hi Iain,

You really don't have to be Conservative to admit that the Tories are winning:


Blue Youth

tory boys never grow up said...

Based on the word cloud his attacks would appear to be mainly on Labour and Brown - and Dave doesn't get a mention which perhaps has more significance. He also seem to say "something" rather a lot - so perhaps the Lib Dems are as vague as ever.

However, haven't we reached a sad state of affairs when it comes to discussing elections in terms of "word clouds", and other such marketing gobbledegook, rather then something a little more substantial then

fudgester said...

what annoys me is that any question to any politician is not answered in any way, shape or form, and that most of the politicians begin their 'answer' with the words "I think what's important is..."

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that not more has been made of little "Lord" Adonis' fatuous contribution to the debate today, suggesting that LibDem supporters should vote tactically to keep the Conservatives out.

In other words: a jumped-up, puffed-up, self-righteous, unelected ex-journalist (and, I see, an ex-Liberal Democrat himself) unblushingly proposes that people should put aside their party loyalty and policy preferences, simply in order to keep him in the power and influence to which he has become comfortably accustomed.

Oh dear. How *will* the preposterously self-satisfied little twerp manage to adjust to life when he won't be allowed to pull the levers any longer? If members of the House of Lords are not allowed to vote, perhaps they should also be required to shut up for the duration.

Roger Thornhill said...

Cameron can change this in a heartbeat - stay indoors.

Don't blame the media.

p.s. to mix metaphors - this is a one-donkey race, with two sides to that same donkey. Regardless, at the end, it will be eating our corn, dumping on our carpets and braying so loud our voices will not be heard.

Bird said...

Presidential yes, but Clegg has to put up with Vince Cable's smug visage, looking over his shoulder.
I expect that the focus groups have pointed to Cable as a vote winner, but his presence diminishes the Lib Dem leader.
The Tories should wind Clegg up about this. I bet he can't stand the old know-all.

ukipwebmaster said...

Cross dressing in Politics?

Change that works for UKIP - Building a fairer Britain with UKIP policies? That'll be the the Lib Dems, who may hate UKIP but love our policies so much they've copied one word for word!

Unknown said...

Well, it is the Year of change, and soon, after we are forced into the Euro (Regardless of who is in power) for the Olympics, because it will be easier for people traveling here so they do not have to exchange money. (That is the excuse that is always used, people are to stupid to use numbers).

This is the Big Change, we will be run by a president once the queen goes.

Simon Cooke said...

THe entire planning for the election has been "presidential" - from poster campaign, on-line activity, centralisation of literature and the presidential - sorry leaders - debates.

Not sure it's an improvement.

Anonymous said...

That 'cloud' is not created from "speeches" but from one speech - the one Clegg gave to party staff at Cowley St on the first day of the campaign.

The media report what they want about what the leaders say - they find attacks on each other more interesting so that's what makes the 10 O Clock news. I am quite sure that Clegg has been talking an awful lot about his plans to raise the income tax threshold, for example.

p smith said...

Be fair Iain, Labour announced a comprehensive set of constitutional reforms earlier this week (HoL reform, alternative vote reform, lobbying reform, fixed term parliaments). Now, you no doubt consider all of that to be a late in the day conversion designed solely to attract LibDem voters and pave the way for a coalition in the event of a hung parliament but it is without doubt the most significant policy announcement since the election was called.

Of course the reason you forgot about it is the media obsession with reducing the entire political debate to this facile row over the 6bn NI tax rise which has allowed both parties to pretend that there isn't a £170bn debt that needs paying off.

As for the presidential nature of the campaign, let's be honest and admit that it is no accident that Dave is desperate not to appear alongside Osborne. By contrast we had Clegg with Cable on day one and Brown has appeared several times with Mandelson (not that that is necessarily a good thing).

Moriarty said...

I have a first class honours degree in philosophy and a PhD in the philosophy of mind.

And yet I can't understand the sequence of letters thrown togather by "tory boys".

Maybe it's not my fault?

Paddy Briggs said...

"This week has been dominated by the Tory NI proposal and their ideas on creating a National Community Service."

Will you be commenting on the Boris/Dave spat Iain? Divided we fall...?

Anonymous said...

You seem to have answered here the question you pose in a later post about the surge in support for "others"

We don't do Presdents.

DespairingLiberal said...

Yeah right, the media traditionally hang on the LibDems every policy utterance and report it with equal weighting to the "main parties" (eg, parties with a few percent more of the vote than the LibDems), of course they do. Of course Clegg won't have to resort to point scoring and rude remarks to get some attention.

The Remittance Man said...

This Campaign Is Too Boring