Archive for the 'Campaigning' Category


The chart that shows general election campaigns don’t matter (usually)

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

One of the axioms of British politics is that general election campaigns don’t matter, and the stats in the above chart by Ben Page of Ipsos MORI does back that up, with sub margin of error changes during past campaigns but the 2017 general election campaign really didn’t stick to past conventions.

The question was 2017 an outlier or the beginning of a trend? My instinct is that at the next general election campaign the Tories couldn’t run a worse campaign than 2017 even if they tried, so 2017 was an outlier of a campaign in my view, though I’m assuming neither Theresa May nor the gruesome twosome Nick Timothy & Fiona Hill will be involved in the next Tory general election campaign.



One of the architects of the worst general election campaign in history gives his thoughts on the campaign

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

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It looks like it was Labour’s ground game was crucial

Sir Lynton Crosby has spoken about the general election campaign which saw Mrs May squander David Cameron’s majority, The Guardian report that

Crosby cautioned against a simplistic analysis of the result, saying commentary had exaggerated the significance of the youth vote.

He said the failure of older voters to turn out for the election was just as significant.

The pollster also warned that the rise of third-party campaigning for Corbyn had a “significant influence” on the campaign. He made specific reference to the Momentum grassroots group, describing the trend of growing third-party campaigns, particularly from the left, as a “warning sign” for politics in Australia and the business community.

“I think that was a very important influence on the campaign,” he said.

“You can have all of the money in the world, and you can have all of the techniques in the world, but at the end of the day … you’ve got to get people out to vote, which means having people out on the ground, knocking on doors.”

I find this analysis interesting because the trend in politics across the world, including in the UK, has been away from traditional knocking on doors towards data driven micro targeting of voters. If we are returning to the traditional ways of campaigning that might be a real problem for the Tories, as they have fewer members than Labour, and that Tory members are generally much older than their Labour counterparts, all things being equal, this gives Labour a real advantage at the next general election.

Sir Lynton also observes ‘against assuming May’s leadership was over, citing the example of long-serving conservative Australian prime minister, John Howard, who was once labelled “Mr 14%” for his poor performance in the polls. “I’m not in the business of writing anyone off,” Crosby said.’ But it is difficult to take that analysis seriously because Sir Lynton thinks Mrs May ‘got a record vote’, when the reality is she didn’t.



The Tories are on the run over the public sector pay cap. So why is Don Brind frustrated by Labour’s campaign?

Monday, July 10th, 2017

There was no doubting the passion and conviction that Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Commons as he challenged the Prime Minister  over the pay cap which, he said, “causes real shortages in nursing, teaching and many other professions, as well as real hardship.” He added, “this pay cap is recklessly exploiting the good will of public servants.”

Many Tories agree, including Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is a practising doctor.  He says claims of a huge extra cost ignore the soaring bill for paying agencies to plug the gaps left by shortages of permanent staff. He fears that doctors, nurses and other staff are “properly rewarded”, they will flee the NHS in growing numbers.

So Jeremy Corbyn is winning the argument but what worries me he is deploying only part of the case for scrapping the cap. Apart from the observation that “The low-pay epidemic is a threat to our economic stability,” the Corbyn challenge to Theresa was essentially a moral one, an assertion that what the Tories was doing was unfair.

What was missing was the positive argument that pay rises for public sector workers make sound economic sense; that what’s good for public servants is good for the country as a whole.

This matters for two reasons. Firstly, Labour’s approach is easily caricatured as not being interested in workers outside the public sector, as Shadow Justice secretary Richard Burgon found when he appeared on BBC Question Time. He was harangued by a small businessman for “living in a bubble”.

Secondly, it means that Labour are missing an opportunity to deal with a long standing problem – the persistent polling leads that the Tories enjoy on economic competence.

Labour List reported last week that Labour have moved into the lead in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn’s personal score had jumped  “But May and Hammond as a team are still more trusted on the economy than Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.” The deficit is around a third of what it was at the end of last year – but the party still have some way to go to establish economic credibility.

Labour need a two-pronged attack . First of all, The current Tory disarray offers the chance to show that the Conservative claim to have created a “strong economy” ia Big Lie. The reality is that after seven years with the Tories at the helm the British economy is weak and shaky.

In a strong economy living standards rise and there are high skilled well paid jobs. Today, living standards are falling and too many are in low paid and insecure work that makes it hard for families to make ends meet. In a strong economy the NHS and education get the funds needed to cover rising costs. In this shaky economy the NHS and schools are being squeezed.

The economy is shaky because there are fundamental weaknesses which the Conservatives have failed to fix. Top of the list is the productivity gap – we lag the Germans and American by 30% in what is produced by the average worker. And new figures the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show UK productivity is back below the level it was pre-crash. We’re heading for an entire decade of stalled growth.

On top of that we don’t pay our way in the world. We have a persistent deficit of around £100 billion a year with more money flowing out than we earn from our trade. Thirdly, the Bank of England is worried about the level of household debt.

During the election around a hundred economists wrote to the Guardian supporting Labour plans to strengthen and develop the economy and ensure that its benefits are more fairly shared and sustainable, as well as being fiscally responsible and based on sound estimations.”

One of the signatories Ann Pettifor argues that a modest 3% pay rise for five million workers is easily affordable, especially since around 40% of the money would eventually find its way back to the Treasury from the workers themselves and from the enterprises where they spend their extra cash.

Kam Gill of the TUC says suppressing public sector pay has already pulled £1.8bn of spending power out of the economy and this is driving the consumer debt bubble. “Allowing wages to fall in relation to the cost of living is becoming fiscally irresponsible.”

What Tory austerity has proved is that you can’t cut your way to prosperity. You have to build it through investment in infrastructure and skills which are where the jobs of the future come from. Not only is inequality the root of many social evils it is also the enemy of innovation and economic advance. Rising inequality has caused economic instability and hampered growth.

Scrapping the pay cap is both socially just and economically sound. Over to you Jeremy

Don Brind


Cost to tax-payers of TMay’s calamitous election decision and terrible campaign: £1bn

Monday, June 26th, 2017

This gives the Tories an effective majority of 15

A deal has been done. The Tories are to be propped up in Parliament by the 10 DUP MPs who have negotiated a £1bn deal for the province.

So TMay’s party will be able to struggle on although the parliamentary arithmetic still looks tight and is nothing like as comfortable as during the 2010-2015 CON-LD coalition. We are going to see some very tight Commons votes with the opposition parties seeking to ambush the government all the time. It is not going to be comfortable being an MP.

As well as the controversial cash payment Team May has had to cut some of the manifesto commitments such as abandoning the pensior trip lock, the move against the winter fuel payment and the social care plans.

In return the DUP will support the Tories over the Queen’s Speech, in confidence motions and on budgets. The combined CON+DUP contingent is 328. My calculation is that with Sinn Fein MPs continuing their refusal to take up their seats the Tories have an effective majority of 15 for the key votes.

This should create some stability though the SNP are going to put a lot of pressure on the Scottish Tory MPs who were elected two and a half weeks ago.

The deal makes an early election much less likely which has been reflected in the betting.

Whether it secures the future of the person who created this mess for the blue team, Mrs. May, is hard to say. It was her decision to go for an election three years early and her lack of campaigning skills that lost the party its working majority.

As for where the £1bn comes from – that’s likely to be a contentious issue whenever the Tories try to bring in any cuts.

Mike Smithson


Mrs May’s extraordinary ratings honeymoon ended with the manifesto launch

Friday, May 26th, 2017

New YouGov polling just published had her dipping into negative territory

One of the striking features of TMay’s period at Number 10 is how she has maintained positive leadership ratings throughput. Whether pollsters were asking about approval, favourability, satisfaction, or whether she was doing a good or bad job all the numbers were positive from the moment she became PM last July.

That run ended in the aftermath of the launch of the controversial General Election manifesto a week last Thursday. As can be seen from the YouGov chart her net favourability ratings went negative only to recover a touch in a survey that took place following the Manchester atrocity.

The latest had her at a net plus 1 compared with minus 8% before Manchester.

The question now is which direction things will go in the final 12 days that remain before polling day?

There’s no doubt that the manifesto launch was a pivotal event.

In the meantime we are seeing the rise and rise of Mr Corbyn in the “who’d make the Best PM” ratings when compared with Mrs May.

As can be seen the number of voters ready to say he’d make the best PM has doubled since before the election was called.

One thing’s for sure – this election which appeared so certain and boring is now looking exciting. If the latest YouGov voting intentions are correct then the Tories could end up losing seats on June 8th.

Hopefully we’ll see many more polls from different firms over the weekend.

Mike Smithson


The search for the answer to Labour’s woes

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

What happens when the focus is on “knocking on doors”

John Prescott’s view that Jeremy Corbyn and his top team are “not up to the f***ing job” which earned him a “potty mouth Prescott” headline  in the Mail on Sunday won’t have come as surprise to the Labour leader.

I understand that the former deputy Prime Minister has said as much to Corbyn’s face. “You’re not a leader and you never will be while you’ve got a hole in your backside” is the former deputy Prime Minister’s (slightly bowdlerised) comment to the leader. This is despite the fact Lord Prescott backed the Corbyn’s re-election last year because he didn’t think he’d been given enough time to prove himself and his journalist son, David, is Corbyn’s speech writer.

Prescott undoubtedly speaks for the vast majority of Labour MPs and peers. What’s interesting, though, is how few are speaking out. More than one MP has said to me “I’m biting my tongue”. The word has gone round that silence is a powerful weapon in undermining the under-performing leader. One of the lessons of the second leadership contest was that criticism by MPs was counter-productive, feeding Momentum efforts to depict Corbyn as a martyr.

It means that Corbynistas have been operating in a vacuum in seeking to excuse the leader for the Copeland disaster. One of the more plausible efforts has come from Kate Osamor, the shadow International Development Secretary in a Huffington Post Interview in which she highlights the “neglect” of many safe Labour seats by long-serving MPs.

Rather than blaming Corbyn, she says, MPs should follow his example and get out on to the doorstep of how to win. “All MPs have to be knocking on doors, at least once a week, for an hour … Jeremy is out in his own constituency. He still knocks on doors”

Incidentally, Theresa May is also a great canvasser according to David Runciman in his LRB review of Rosa Prince’s biography of the Prime Minister. “Canvassing – whether in local or national elections – remains her preferred way of doing politics. Given the chance, she will still knock on doors, even now she is prime minister.”

But there is a flaw in Osamor’s “get knocking” prescription as a remedy for Labour’s woes, says London Assembly member Tom Copley.

    Most MPs are out on the doorstep regularly, which is in part how they know Jeremy is so unpopular with voters.

The point is underlined by Professor Glen O’Hara of Oxford Brookes University. He calculates that on the day Corbyn relaunched his leadership early in the New Year the Tory poll lead “was 11.8% (six-poll average). It now stands at 16.5%.”

The label “bed blocker” has been pinned on the Labour leader by David Cowling, former head of research at the BBC. The subtle point is that people become bed blockers in the NHS through no fault of their own. They are in a place they don’t want to be — but they need help to get out of their predicament. The question is who will help Jeremy escape from a job he never wanted and which is causing misery for him and his Labour “family”? John Prescott has done his bit.

Don Brind


Maybe next time the Tories will have to emulate the GE2015 EdStone to show they’ll honour manifesto commitments

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

OmNICshambles, like the LDs tuition fees pledge, will be remembered

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has been in full defensive mode as he has sought to fight off the criticism that his National Insurance changes for the self-employed are in breach of a GE2015 Conservative manifesto pledge.

His responses that this just applied to one form of NIC charges really didn’t resonate and he’d be well advised to find another way of dealing with the attacks.

What is surprising is that this wasn’t anticipated. The way the Tories used the threat of increased National Insurance contributions against LAB at the last election is all on the record and cannot easily be airbrushed out.

The problem at the next election is that the blue team is going to be pressed even further on any manifesto commitments that they make and this one will be thrown back at them.

Maybe there was something in Ed Miliband headstone plan that was, as we can all record, going to be placed in the garden at 10 Downing Street, as a way of saying that they’ll keep their promises.

One thing’s for sure Cameron/Osborne would not have made this mistake.

With the second BREXIT bill defeat in the Lords, the sacking of Michael Heseltine and the reception the budget has got this has probably been the worst week of Theresa May’s government.

Mike Smithson


As the EURef poster campaigns are about to start Roger evaluates their effectiveness

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Tory poster from GE2015 campaign

Hit Hard Hit Fast and Keep Hitting’ (Jeremy Sinclair, Saatchis)

Ernest Hemingway believed the best thing he ever wrote was a six word advert “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn”. You can understand why a novelist might be happy with such an effective use of six words. If he’d spent his time in advertising he might have honed his technique further and managed something equally effective but using only three. “Beanz Meanz Heinz”.

After several weeks waiting for the Local and Mayoral elections the REFERENDUM has finally reached the top of the list. While LEAVE are still hitching their wagon to Boris REMAIN are onto their second agency.

After designing the logo and overseeing the launch Adam and Eve have been replaced by the Saatchis. Whether this is the campaign moving to a more aggressive phase or whether it was planned all along I don’t know. What we do know is it signals a change of tone. It could be that a more vigorous than expected start from ‘Vote LEAVE’ panicked them into action.

The Saatchis have a reputation for confrontational campaigns.

    Posters are particularly good for setting the agenda. Their value is multiplied several times by free exposure in the press and TV. The most effective often involve finding a flaw in your opponent then lampooning them with humour.

TBWA did one for Labour in which William Hague morphed into Maggie. ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid’. You could almost hear Tory voters saying ‘I wish’. The same agency was responsible for the ‘Fagin’ posters and the infamous ‘flying pigs’.

Though they didn’t intend to be racially offensive a clever rebuttal made them not only ineffective but damaging to Labour. Even without the controversy they would have failed. Michael Howard was never a Fagin – Bill Sykes perhaps – he didn’t have the guile or pathos. As for flying pigs… it’s doubtful many knew who Letwin was let alone what his flight of fantasy was supposed to be. And they weren’t funny.

The Saatchis for the Tories had a better track record. Their iconic ‘Labour isn’t Working’ was ingenious on every level. Ed Miliband in Salmond’s pocket was also a hit. A captivating image of an enfeebled Miliband answerable to Salmond struck a chord and pointed to the chaos that was likely to follow.

‘Labour’s policy on Arms’ with a soldier holding his hands up was an advertising classic. Witty but brutal.

‘Demon eyes’ failed because it broke the golden rule. The public didn’t believe ‘Bambi’ Blair was a demon. Knowing that Saatchi research thoroughly I can only think their focus groups were exceptionally far-sighted. Another Saatchi failure was ‘Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking’. Too much Orwellian Big Brother for British tastes but a good example of a poster campaign setting the agenda.

Visible work so far has been limited. REMAIN used some surviving second world war veterans who in a scripted piece to camera told us they’d fought the war to bring Europe closer together. LEAVE did a vox pop on whether £350 million a week was better spent on Europe or the NHS. Both preaching to the converted. Unlikely either would sway the undecideds.

Hitler made another appearance. Being Boris it’s unlikely to have consequences but it does point to the dangers of being too dependant on a single loose cannon and particularly when it drowns out more sober commentators.

The next few weeks are likely to see more organised activity from both sides and an appointment from LEAVE will hopefully lead to a more focussed campaign.

Roger has worked in advertising for all his career