Monday, March 01, 2010

How to make a negative campaign sound positive

‘Vote for change’ – it sounds wonderful. Change, you say? And little old me gets to vote for it? Sign me up!

But think about it. It’s in fact the very emptiest slogan that an opposition party could use. It says nothing at all about what that change might be. The Lib Dems could use this slogan, the Greens and the BNP could use it, the Natural Law Party and Mebyon Kernow (the Cornish separatists) could use it.

All the slogan communicates is that the way things are is bad – and it doesn’t even say why. It implicitly invites you to picture Gordon Brown and whether you want to gaze at him on TV and listen to his dulcet tones for another four or five years.

‘Vote for change’ sounds like a generous offer. But it’s just a subtle attack, and it’s an unsurprising tactic from a party that finds its poll lead shrinking the more scrutiny it faces. Consider the rallying call at the end of David Cameron’s speech yesterday:

And as you go out there and campaign, I want you to do it fortified with two things in your mind. The first is that every day Gordon Brown is running this country is a grey day for Britain. Every day he is in charge is another day we're not gripping our problems, another day we are wasting our opportunities, another day when this country is not being all that it could be. But I also want you to think of this, to think of the great changes we can make in this country.
We're an amazing people in this country, when we get knocked down, we don't roll over and die, we get up and fight. So as you go out and campaign, I want you to think of the small businessman who's got a great dream to make his business take on the world and win it for him. I want you to think of the mother with the young child desperate for a great school, so that her child can fulfil all her dreams and ambitions, and win it for her. I want you to think of the nurse, of the doctor, of the teacher, of the probation officer, all of whom went into public service with a great vocation, but feel crushed by the weight of bureaucracy and government targets, who we're going to set free, and I want you to win it for them.
And while you do it, I want you to think of the incredible dark depression of another five years of Gordon Brown and say no, no, we're not going to do that, so come on then, let's get out there and win it for Britain!

So: first of all, Brown is awful. Second, there are nice people who would like things to be nicer. Oh, and did I mention Brown is awful? Huzzah for Britain!

(Of course, as the election gets nearer, we can expect much more overtly negative campaigning from all sides. It's enough to make you want to hide under a rock until it's over...)


Chris said...

I thought 'dark depression' was both more overtly negative and pretty tacky.

Tom Freeman said...

OMG (as they say on the interwebs) - that hadn't even occurred to me.

Chris said...

'that hadn't even occurred to me'

I probably wouldn't have twigged if I didn't foolishly read the comments on certain sites. That's probably not entirely unconnected with why their slip is showing - not so much that they listen to Tory bloggers and blog commentators as they think that what is appealing and obvious to those people is universally appealing. Even when it does rate, it's a very shallow appeal.