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Dealing with Dave – my advice to Labour

April 24th, 2006

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    How the party’s “Dave the Chameleon” boosts the Tories

In 1997 when Labour won its first land-slide victory more than 80% of the population were without multichannel television and had to rely on just four channels for their information and recreational needs.

Audiences for the then main TV news bulletins – BBC1 at 9pm and the ITN News at Ten – were vast compared with what their equivalents get today.

    We’ve now reached a stage where two out of every three households have digital TV and the vastly increased choice. Large numbers of viewers never go near a channel where they can see news and current affairs so there’s much less exposure to politics.

In this context it is now much harder for opposition parties in particular to command coverage that will reach large proportions of the electorate. Quite simply the mass media is less “mass” than it used to be. All this is likely to be exacerbated by the political party spending cut-backs – which seem certain following the cash for honours controversy.

The lack of media exposure to the political process is showing up in the polls. What we are seeing are larger “don’t know” figures. Thus the last time that YouGov asked its panellists to rate the party leaders 38% did not know about Cameron and 44% had no view on Campbell. In this category were nearly quarter of all intending Tory voters while nearly a third of Lib Dems replied “don’t know” on Campbell.

So anything that increases awareness is to be welcomed – even if it’s the other’s campaigning.

Given the polls show that the Tories get a 1-5% uplift if the word “Cameron” is associated with “Conservative” then Labour’s priority, surely, should be to do nothing that links the opposition leader’s name with his party.

    This is reinforced by a BPIX poll in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday on Labour’s “Dave the Chameleon” PPB. One in 20 of those who saw the ad said they’d be less likely to vote Tory, while 1 in 7 said it made them more likely to vote for Cameron’s party. BPIX, it should be noted, is not listed as a member of the British Polling Council.

Producing a campaign that leads to more voters wanting to vote for the other side does not seem very smart. The old adage of never mentioning your opponent’s name should should prevail.

Labour should continue with the strategy that has worked for a decade – just keep on demonising the Conservatives without ever mentioning Cameron.

Mike Smithson






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