16th November 2019
Johnson lays a wreath…but when?
How many people watch and how much impact Party Election Broadcasts have in today’s multi media world is hard to gauge. However, they must be deemed sufficiently important for the campaign teams of the major parties to put some effort into them. The broadcasts from the Conservative Party and the Labour Party this week were an interesting microcosm of the contrasting visions on offer from the UK’s major political parties.
The Tories went with personality, as they assume that Boris Johnson has a personality that is a saleable commodity. The entire five minutes was taken up with a cinema verité style talk to camera in response to a series of inane questions about how Boris spends his day, what he likes to eat, his favourite bands and an impromptu demonstration of how not to make a cup of tea (take out the teabag!).
The office that Boris wanders through on this pinhead odyssey just happens to be littered with posters shouting out Tory election slogans such as ‘20,000 new police officers’, ‘Unite our Country’ and hilariously, ‘Properly funding our Schools’. Really? Has Johnson seen the state of schools in the UK as a result of the break up of the comprehensive system and the introduction of academies? The icing on the cake is to hear Johnson cite The Clash as one of his favourite bands, showing him to have even less grip on political reality than most suspected.
Like Nigel Farage, Johnson is a phoney ‘man of the people’ and the broadcast simply reinforces this impression. All that comes across is that there is a smug posh bloke out there trying to trick you into voting for him. The inevitable ending is an exhortation to Get Brexit Done. In any event, the phoney war between Farage and Johnson ended this week when Farage agreed not to stand Brexit Party candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017, hoping to create a de facto Leave alliance.
The Labour broadcast is in stark contrast, focusing upon real people actually working for a living, struggling against the lack of resources in the public sector in the case of a firefighter and doctor, the diverse community engagement activity at a local football club and the struggles of a small farmer. Care, compassion and community are the clear messages which emerge. Rarely has the Labour slogan, For the Many, Not the Few, seemed so relevant.
In other highlights this week the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, interviewing Jeremy Corbyn on the subject of immigration, did her best to tie him into the numbers game, pressing for a target on net migration. Unfortunately for Kuenssberg, Corbyn outsmarted her at each turn in the interview. While Kuenssberg pressed for a number Corbyn insisted that immigration was an issue relating to family circumstances and the needs of the economy, not an arbitrary target to be used as a political football.
The BBC had covered themselves in glory earlier in the week with their coverage of Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph. Boris Johnson, having turned up looking like a man with a hangover from last nights party, proceeded to approach the Cenotaph with an upside down wreath. In order to save his blushes the BBC obligingly substituted footage of Johnson from 2016, when advisers had made him comb his hair and tuck his shirt in, for subsequent coverage of the event.
The ensuing Twitter storm saw the BBC apologise for their ‘mistake’…in having gone through the archives and found replacement footage? Not a mistake but media manipulation.
The Tories meanwhile had a hard time on Sky, where the unfortunately named Party Chairman, James Cleverley, turned up for Sophie Ridge on Sunday, having been empty chaired by Kay Burley on Sky News a few days earlier for failing to put in a scheduled appearance. Ridge pressed (not so) Cleverley on Tory claims about Labour spending plans, which Tory Central Office had calculated as reaching a mind boggling £1.2 trillion.
Cleverley clearly thought he was on safe ground, attacking Labour on the economy, until Ridge asked what figure that Central Office had calculated for the Tories spending promises. Cleverley was flummoxed and burbled in a style reminiscent of his party leader but Ridge pressed the point. If the Tories had spent so much time working out the alleged cost of Labour plans surely it was not too big a step to put a price on their own? Clearly it was and the question remains unanswered.
On the fringes of the election trail Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson continues to cry, ‘Me! Me! Me!’, into the dying Winter light of an equally lacklustre campaign offer.
The opening weeks of a General Election represent the border skirmishes, rather than the main battle, but the Tories have already thrown antisemitism, immigration, Brexit policy and the economy Labour’s way. Expect more disinformation on foreign policy, defence, nationalisation, plus law and order to come in the weeks ahead.
In spite of their best efforts, aided by the right wing press and an obviously biased BBC, the Tories are not making ground and Labour are slowly closing the gap in the opinion polls.
Published manifestos are expected soon…..