spiked-geist: Day 28

The infantile election - top 10 gimmicks; Getting arsy with the voters; It's a long way to...Harlow

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The infantile election – top 10 gimmicks

Is an election for grown-ups – or for people with a mental age of three? Here are the top 10 party campaign gimmicks – a reminder of just how infantile politicians think we are.

1) Text messages to young people saying they can drink more under Labour – one message read ‘cdnt give a xxxx 4 lst ordrs? Vote labour on thrsdy 4 xtra time’. If young people decide to spend Thursday at the pub rather than the polling station, Labour politicians have only themselves to blame (1).

2) Cut ‘n’ Run and Boom and Bust computer games – in Labour’s Cut ‘n’ Run game, designed to illustrate the perils of Tory tax cuts, you go around the board eating up hospital beds and policemen’s helmets with a pair of scissors; in Boom and Bust you lob cannon balls at objects flying overhead, which explode into signs like ‘Record home repossessions’. Dour chancellor Gordon Brown told a Labour Party press conference that for him these games were one of the highlights of the campaign (2).

3) Pricking Tony’s bubble – the Tories’ last-ditch poster effort presented a smiling Tony Blair, with an invitation to ‘Go on, burst his bubble’. Tony’s most smarmy grin would drive any decent person to grab a pin. But most people would also feel their instinct to be a bit childish…(3).

4) Trojan Horse – a gimmick aimed at those with a classical education. Labour took a big wooden horse around the country, saying the Tories would use a Trojan horse to destroy the NHS. When one journalist pointed out that in the myth of the Trojan Horse the Greeks won, health secretary Alan Milburn had a quick riposte: ‘The point is not to repeat history, but to learn from it.’ He looked very pleased with himself for that one (4).

5) ‘Urgent reminder – vote for schools and hospitals this Thurs’ – in case anybody manage to miss the fact there is an election on, Blair put his handy post-it reminder on billboards. I am sure it has been faithfully copied out, and is now stuck on fridges across the land (5).

6) My manifesto – if the 46-page Tory manifesto doesn’t turn you on, try this online initiative that chops up bits of manifesto to suit your personal interests (6).

7) Mortgage calculator – if you type in your mortgage to this Labour online gimmick, it tells you how much you would save under Labour. On a mortgage of £500 a month, you will save £360 a year….How much is your vote worth, exactly? (7)

8) Floating for voters – to drive home their rallying cry of ‘seven days left to save the pound’, the Tories floated a barge with a pink pound (no hidden meaning) down the Thames, with the words ‘Labour will sell it down the river’ (8).

9) Hague with hair – Labour’s poster of William Hague’s baby-face crowned by Margaret Thatcher’s hair came with the slogan ‘Be afraid – be very afraid’. Like Labour’s campaign film and series of posters using the ‘horror genre’ to show how a Tory victory would mean ‘Economic Disaster II’, it’s not scary and it’s not funny.

10) The Letwin series – Labour could not let go of the ‘disappearance’ of Tory chief Treasury secretary Oliver Letwin, after he supposedly leaked plans for £20billion of tax cuts to the Financial Times. Labour strategists began with Sherlock Holmes (looking for Letwin with a microscope) and Letwin: ‘Wanted’ posters, before moving on to ‘Oliver Letwin…The Fugitive’. Have you even heard of Letwin? My point exactly. JA

(1) See Independent, 3 June 2001

(2) Play Cut ‘n’ Run and Boom and Bust

(3) See BBC News Online

(4) The Labour Party press office provided helpful notes on the myth: ‘The Trojans celebrated all night, thinking themselves assured that they would receive protection forever’, but later…’The Greeks rampaged through the city, destroying buildings, cutting thousands of Trojans down and selling off the women and girls into slavery’. See BBC News Online

(5) See BBC News Online

(6) See My manifesto

(7) Mortgage calculator

(8) See the Conservative website for the pink pound stunt

Getting arsy with the voters

The most entertaining kind of political gaffe is when a politician says what he means while inadvertently addressing the public. But few can beat Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North.

When civil servant Lila Tait recently left a message on Pound’s election hotline, expressing concern about Labour policy on tuition fees, she received the answerphone message:

‘Can I say that if there is one thing that really pisses me off it is middle class whingers going on about fucking tuition fees and as far as I am concerned if that’s your attitude you can shove your vote up your arse. Cheers now.’

It’s nice to know they’re listening. SS

It’s a long way to…Harlow

With four days to go, Labour has started holding its usual 8:30 Milbank press conferences at 10:30 in the regions. Today’s conference was in Harlow, Essex – a stone’s throw from the M25. It started at 10:30, so journalists wouldn’t have to get up too early; and the Labour Party press office helpfully faxed out departure and arrival times for the half-hour train journey.

Is this about taking politics to the people – or taking the press to the provinces? JA

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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