General Election ’15: Bringing out the worst of PR?

There’s less than than 30 days to go until voters head to the polls in what is looking like one of the closest General Elections in decades. Whatever your party colour – if you have one at all – the noise in the build up to 7th May is already beginning to deafen.

In 2015, there are more channels than ever for parties to get their message out: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email, party political broadcasts, even old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing. All offer fantastic opportunities for each side to be pragmatic, optimistic, aspirational, and more. However, I can’t help wondering whether the run up to General Elections bring out the worst of PR, rather than the best.

Negative campaigning has been a hallmark of electioneering for years, especially in the United States, but even before the disillusion of parliament at the end of March this year, it was beginning to seep through to the fore. The Conservative Party spoke of the “chaos” of a Miliband premiership; the Liberal Democrats warned that without them being involved in a post-election coalition a parliament headed by either the Conservatives or Labour would shift away from the centre; Labour warned of the cuts that a Conservative government would bring.

The negative PR continues thanks to rounds of interviews with spin doctors, politicians, and partisan journalists taking turns – and sometimes not even doing that – to speak on rolling news channels and feature in newspaper articles. Now, I actually enjoy watching election campaigns play out. I stay up through the night watching the results come in (usually with the elder Dimbleby sibling on the TV screen) and the map of the UK turn into pockets of blue, red, orange, and green. I do however feel that negative campaigning is the worst kind of PR.

While some of the electorate may not associate political races with other forms of PR campaigns that they consume on a daily basis, I’m sure many PR professionals roll their eyes at the attack advertisements. I’m all for campaigns that show clear differences between them and their rivals, but surely out-and-out vitriolic and fear-mongering claims and counter-claims only hinder the communication of those differences, the ones that will make a positive impact on people’s lives.

While it’s already too late for 2015, it would be great if parties try to adhere to running positive campaigns in five years time – so people can see the policies of the various parties with 2020 vision. — Jon

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