Campaign Returns to Bread & Butter issues

After I was bemoaning the total focus of the campaign being dominated by the Tories attacks on the SNP yesterday, and hoping that we would return to some ‘normal’ issues based electioneering, it seems from what I have seen today that we have finally moved on.

Interestingly by moving on it seems on the BBC News I caught and my twitter timeline (where I am watching the campaign today from the train again) that the tradtional campaigning isn’t exciting enough to lead the news bulletins! I am sure the first election coverage was about 4/5 on the running order. In view of the other stories this seemed fair given the return to the campaign is another day of the announcement followed by the photo opp to back up the theme of the day. The formula is fine for a short campaign but given we have another two weeks of this I am sure most of us are really struggling to the sheer boredom of these staged events and photos. There was a great piece this week too about the fact that at the Tory party events with Cameron Journalists aren’t even allowed to hold the mike when asking a question and certainly not given the opportunity to ask a follow up question. I also was reminded today that the journalists lament the loss of the daily press conferences where ‘announcements’ were put under some scrutiny from the political hacks. Now these are gone the announcements are just that – broadcasting messages. It does seem as though the scrutiny is left the to the set piece interviews on TV and Radio. As the election has moved on it does feel as though Andrew Neil has become the interviewer to avoid. He seems to have caused the most discomfort for politicians with his line of questioning.

Back on the patch in Loughborough I see the Labour campaign was spiced up a little with the arrival in town of comedian Eddie Izzard to help the Mathew O’Callaghan. There are a number of celebrity endorsers of the parties. In 1997 Labour was cool and lots of luvvies backed the party and were quite keen to be seen with Blair. Although my only celebrity visit came from Richard Attenborough when we held an event for him to meet potential switch voters at the Ramada Hotel in the town centre. It was a surreal experience when he turned up in his Rolls Royce and referred to everybody in the room as ‘Darling’. He was good value and It was a welcome break from the normal daily routine. It would be interesting to know if it changed a single vote for those 30 or so people who came along. I also had a great visit from Tony Robinson of Blackadder fame (amongst many others since). Again it was fun walking the town centre
and people loved getting autographs. It did cause a great buzz and a stir but do people change their vote because of celebrity endorsements? I know the other way round it puts me off celebrities if they have endorsed the Tories, so it is a high risk strategy for those concerned. I actually advise many sports people to choose very carefully before making any announcements about their political preferences.

Today will certainly liven up events in the town centre and I hope it reflects positively that people like Eddie, Martin Freeman, Jo Brand and David Tenant are willing to give their public support makes voting Labour semi respectable if nothing else. It was funny in the 1990s that the Tories star names were Kenny Everitt and some crusty old actors. They became a little cooler in Cameron era and there are one or two more like the tax evading Barlow! It may be worth a short quiz – put the celebrity with the party!

I haven’t been able to follow the campaigns in any great detail today (or indeed yesterday) as I have been in meetings. However, these meetings have been a fascinating insight into the thoughts and actions at the heart of the campaign from a Leaders office and from inside the mins of civil servants planning for May 8th. Clearly it’s a shame I can’t share these discussions here but in due course they will emerge when it is appropriate and they really help shape some of the thoughts and feelings I have for the campaign in these short blogs. With polls still showing neck and neck for Labour & the Tories it means those responsible for policy areas are having to make detailed plans for a variety of eventualities. Interestingly enough somebody told me today that they were still assuming another Tory / Liberal ‘coalition’.

Given the fact that a coalition – even an informal one still looks the most likely outcome from this election it is worth thinking about what this will mean for the country and even for those new MPs being elected in 2 weeks. Without a clear or even workable majority every vote will become crucial to the future of the government. If there are no deals this will be really demanding when there are running whips and votes where everybody will need to be present. Don’t expect many ministerial visits until things have settled down!

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