First of all many thanks to Mark Wright aka Elvis for putting a bit of life into the campaign coverage yesterday. ‘Best pictures of the campaign so far,’ said ITV’s reporter, so we will live with that, especially as they got GB to the top of the news talking about the future of the NHS.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the squillions of tweets and Facebook messages getting all-of-a-twitter about who our megaceleb backer might be, and then watching the divide between those with a sense of humour and those who live up their own backside.
Meanwhile onwards and hopefully upwards. Lots of polls in the Sundays as usual and for me the most interesting element is the one that says 42 per cent of people who say they are voting Lib Dem also say they might change their mind. That is far higher than for those who say they will vote Labour or Tory.
It means the Lib Dem vote is soft, and that the scrutiny on policy since the first TV debate is beginning to have a real impact. It is also interesting how Vince Cable, until the Clegg surge the most visible Lib Dem face with a sage-like reputation for credibility, has vanished, and how also his economic observations are less respected than they were.
So for both Tory and Labour, there is an interest in stepping up the policy-based attacks. Trident, illegal immigrant amnesty, cutting tax credits, sums not adding up, there is a lot to go for. I would be very surprised if the Lib Dem ratings stay where they are.
Of course for some the election has already happened and another interesting stat is that one in five of us are voting by postal vote. I have always done so since working for TB because I spent the last few election days in Sedgefield and the habit has stuck with me. I can hereby reveal that, having thought carefully about all the policies being put forward by all the parties, I shall be voting Labour. So will Fiona and, voting in a general election for the first time, our two sons. So it’s a bit of a landslide round here.
What of course the rise in postal voting means is that for many the post postal vote campaign becomes somewhat irrelevant. But I don’t think I have ever known an election where there are so many undecideds at this stage of the race.
So for all the parties there really is everything to play for, and I am convinced that the more it is focused on policy, and really hard argument, the better it is for Labour.
I thought David Cameron looked small and a bit silly yesterday with his plan for a law that says anyone who becomes PM without a general election has to face one within six months. It was so obviously no more than a dig at GB, which is fair enough I suppose, but it was somewhat blind both to history and to the significance of such a constitutional change.
Pressed on it in The Observer, and asked why it wasn’t in the manifesto, Mr Cameron, as ever talking through the PR man’s lens, says ‘I don’t think there’s any law against announcing plans in an election. Normally you guys are saying “Come on where’s the news, where’s the beef?”‘
Indeed there is no law against announcing plans in an election. But there ought to be one about concealing them. We saw during the second debate, in a carefully prepared outburst of anger over Labour leaflets, Cameron announcing a policy and spending commitment on pensioners’ eye tests and prescriptions that was not in his manifesto.
And today, we see another policy not in his manifesto, but this time one he would prefer not to talk about. Again, with thanks to Labour’s media monitoring report. ‘Conservatives will end guarantee of free nursery places’ (Observer p5) – The Tories will allow nurseries to charge parents of 3 & 4 yr olds millions of pounds in “supplementary fees” if they form a govt. The party has kept the policy out of its manifesto, but in a letter seen by Asthana shadow ministers have assured nursery providers that under a Tory govt they will be allowed to charge top-up fees – at least temporarily. The move wld require the party to suspend a code of practice put in place in 2006 that ruled out any additional fees. Charities have warned that it could lead to a two-tier system in nursery care.’
Happily, GB is making a speech later today on how so many Tory policies are not just wrong, but unfair. This is but the latest example, and of rather more significance than that piece of nonsense DC came out with yesterday.
Meanwhile, despite the rival attractions of a day of meetings, I have decided to head to Burnley v Liverpool. If we lose, we are down. But we fight to the end and where there is hope, there is everything to play for.
A lesson that might be learned by whichever ministers appear to think their or Labour’s interests are served by briefing against the campaign in the Sunday papers. Will they ever learn?
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.
I heard from Chris York, a Labour member like me, but who was there in person, that the atmosphere of the Elvis event was electric, and it more than adequately served its function in contrasting the inexperience of Clegg and Cameron with the proven ability of Gordon Brown. Also, the message of the NHS couldn’t be faulted. I am upset that the hugely-biased BBC tried to corrupt the coverage, presenting Labour in a bad light. If it’s any consolation, I believe strongly that the BBC lost credibility over its election and pre-election coverage months ago, with certain individuals being notoriously bad.
You mention, “So for both Tory and Labour, there is an interest in stepping up the policy-based attacks. Trident, illegal immigrant amnesty, cutting tax credits, sums not adding up, there is a lot to go for. I would be very surprised if the Lib Dem ratings stay where they are.” Not much to add really from me anyway, for what it’s worth. Policy-based attacks are where it’s at it, especially urgent as postal voters (including me) will be ‘doing their stuff’ shortly. I think that once a lot of voters discover that the Trident replacement has no detail, the Pound Sterling could be threatened (as opposed to the Euro), the Human Rights Act being scrapped with no detail about its replacement, inter alia, there is quite a lot to get angry about actually and vote about. I am concerned about how much of this plays in the mind of first-time voters who were 5 when Tony Blair first came to power as PM.
GB is right to ‘up the pace’, but, again, this I think is not as widely-reported because he or others feel that the campaign is ‘lack-lustre’. We need to up the pace because of the postal vote. I dread to think of people actively voting this week for George Osborne as Chancellor and Chris Grayling as Home Minister, let alone ‘Dave’ as PM. I am led to believe from a reputable source anyway that Kenneth Clarke will be the Tory spokesman for the economy after the election – so it beggars belief that we not only know what the actual policies will be, but also we don’t know who’ll be delivering them for Dave. Dave may have his highly personal nasty jibe at Gordon Brown being an unelected PM for the time-being, but hopefully Dave will not secure a large majority to govern anyway. Nobody serious at the time thinks he’s in with a chance of that anyway. This must be the fault of his hugely over-rated and over-paid spin doctors at CCHQ.
Just heard Elvis on Five Live. Sounded like fun event yesterday. I saw him on the news and the very clear impression was he was just hired in for a bit of fun. What I now realise is he was a big Labour supporter doing it for the party.Good on him and good on you for gettinhg him involved. AGree we need more fun in this campaign. You can be serious without losine a sense of humour
Alastair, there were briefings going on during all the campaigns – that much clear from your book – but what matters is the big people stay big and let the small people get on with the rubbish. GB is doing fine, he just has to be himself, I have been impressed by Darling and Miliband when I have seen them, and Johnson who we need to see more of, and your blog is fabulous for party supporters like me because it shows there are people in there fighting to win and not interested in who says what to whom about who is up and who is down. Keep on keeping on and enjoy your day at the match
Lib Dems not fading where I live – Twickenham. Never seen so many posters out! Good luck
@AC “I also thoroughly enjoyed the squillions of tweets and Facebook messages getting all-of-a-twitter about who our megaceleb backer might be, and then watching the divide between those with a sense of humour and those who live up their own backside.”
My friend tells me that I am posessed of a sense of humour and not currently residing up my own backside, therefore the only conclusion I can reach is that you really do inhabit a Parallel Universe.
When you have made a blunder, admit it. Surely they teach this on day-one at even the most bog standard spinmeister academy ?
PS….. Lib Dems: Weak on Crime. Weak on returning the proceeds of Crime.
A much more balanced and readable blog today, Alastair. When you’re writing from conviction rather than anger or churlishness you could even convince an old leftie like me! Enjoy the match – and a day off from the hustings.
I`m surprised that there has not been much speculation as to when TB will make an appearance. Yes GB has to show he`s the no.1 player but surely some input from TB boosting the policies, referring to the successes and promoting the continuation of all that`s been good will, on balance, help. That said, many in the media will say `GB so desperate he has to call upon an old enemy` etc. More big people in the public eye need to give their support eg Sir Alex F. They`ve done it before and it looks like they don`t believe in a 4th term if they don`t show. There`s the old argument about window dressing but people like SAF, JK Rowling and so on are respected and their opinions carry weight across the voting spectrum. Also, have we missed something important in not giving senior female figures much airtime? Listened to Harriet Harman last night on Radio 5 Live and, overall she was quite good. Surely other women in the Party can do the same.
Alastair, you did of course give a clue that it was going to be the Elvis guy at yesterday`s event and I can`t believe how few of the reporters were still guessing up to his appearance.
Good luck for the game.
Good luck with the Liverpool game. I suport Charlton enough said. I think it’s time to sharpen the massege re tactical voting. people need to be reminded that a vote for the Lib Dems will not provide a Clegg led hung parliament but a Conservative one with DC ready to chop education and the NHS to pieces (A poster with Cameron waving a clever hacking away at the NHS would do nicely). Labour should also run with the media’s fixation with change, warning that voters dream of change will turn into a nighmare if a Lib Dem vote lets in the Tories.
In my last post I meant to say how MANY (not how few) reporters were left guessing re the i.d. of the celeb backer yesterday.
I can`t believe that many of the undecideds will vote for the Tories. There must be a lot of them out there. I don`t know exactly how polling works (I`ve never been asked) but surely the undecideds are much lees likely to take part if they take the call from the polling company. I do believe that the closeness of it all will improve the turnout from last time. We have to carry on doing our best to get those few extra per cent to vote for Labour. Whatever happens, we don`t want the Libdems forcing PR on the country. Ok, so there was an inconclusive result in Feb `74 – now and again it happens but the usual decisive result makes for the possibility of clear policy. If policies turn out to be wrong then the following election is the way they are extinguished.
if ever there was proof britain is not broken and far from it, the London Marathon is being run by thousands
of britons being sponsored by millions more britons.
Ineed no proof that Cameron’s Big society is so much pr drivel but for those who might need persuading they need look no further!
The other thing with Big Society volunteer scheme is funding.
Not by the Government but by those who sign up to help Green Dave and the £30 minimum for the CRB checks needed.
If call me Dave wants to scrap the funding / donation of the costs (not that its been mentioned) how are the checks which are needed going to be paid for?
Scrapping isn’t an option and selective checking for vulnerable group areas isn’t either.
Could CRB be the hidden stealth tax of ‘the policy’
I thought Brown and elvis were silly.bottom of the barrell,as for the distributing of leaflets worrying the elderly about their allowances ,a negative for our campaigning and crass.Typical of the nassty spin,remember Rose Addis, and other nasty slurs put about by our nasty spin drivers, stop the nastiness it will do us no good.
It would appear that David Cameron thinks that between 1990 and 1992, John Major had no credibility and no place to be PM.
Wasn’t this also a time when Dave was an adviser to Major’s Chancellor?
This wasn’t a megaceleb Labour backer, though was it. It was an Elvis impersonator for God’s sake – and not even a good one.
Having him sing to Brown “When no-one else can understand me, when everything I do is wrong” takes the biscuit. Are you deliberately setting out to humiliate Brown? Because if so, it was quite brilliant.
Re Elvis, sorry Alistair that you think I’m living up my own arse, (bit hasty, maybe, slagging off your own supporters?) but hiring an Elvis look-alike just appears to be scraping the barrel. He may be excellent at it, but Elvis impersonators open supermarkets, and deliver kiss-o-grams – you’ve got Eddie Izzard and J K Rowling in real life! So the ITV reporter liked it – how fair do you generally consider ITV’s political reporting since GB became PM to have been? I’m just afraid it looked a bit desperate and shallow.
“I also thoroughly enjoyed the squillions of tweets and Facebook messages getting all-of-a-twitter about who our megaceleb backer might be, and then watching the divide between those with a sense of humour and those who live up their own backside.”
We’re not up our own backsides Alastair, we just think it was a stupid, desperate stunt that made us look like idiots. Which it did. And for no discernable reason at all. What would you have said if Cameron had done it?
Secondly, the Lib Dems. Why aren’t we attacking them on the most basic of policy areas, tax and spend? They claim to be “hardwiring fairness into the tax system”, yet want to extend their (worthy) tax cut for the poorest onto people who aren’t poor at all-people earning up to £100,000 in fact. And they want to cut public spending even more than the TORIES do. By 20% more in fact. WHY are we not hammering this message home, again and again and again??? Because people don’t know this, they haven’t got a clue. The support for Clegg is not based on his policies, it’s based on his perceived policies-people think the Lib Dems are nice, so don’t believe that they would offer more vicious cuts than George Osborne. But they are. And that’s what we should be saying to people, not getting into the situation where we’re agreeing with the Tories (and so making it look like we’re ganging up on Clegg, and supporting his argument that we’re both the same) by attacking him from the right, criticising his (actually quite good) immigration policy. Criticise him from the LEFT for God’s sake, otherwise we’re totally playing into his hands by making him look to the left of us. He wants to slash public spending even more than the Tories do, and give tax cuts to people earning £90,000. Is that fair? That should be our message. Selling that message would be a better use of our time and energy than phoning up dodgy Elvis impersonators so we can look even more desperate and out of touch than we already do.
Thirdly, I was out campaigning with Julie Morgan alongside Chris Bryant yesterday, and an ex-Labour voter said he was voting for Plaid Cymru because Labour has lost its way and abandoned our values. We’re now at the same level in the polls as Michael Foot was. I thought New Labour was about winning, and getting us away from those disasterous poll levels? Perhaps it’s time to put old, outdated ideological dogmas about privatisation, pandering to the rich, public spending cuts, war and the destruction of civil liberties aside and put forward policies that might actually get people to vote for us?