Party Election Broadcasts – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 11:19 am,

I’ve been catching up on some of the party election broadcasts for the local elections, I’m rather worried by what I’m seeing. There’s very little good (telling us what the party would do to improve the area), and far too much bad (focusing on national issues, rather than ones local government has any control over, or simply lying) and ugly (negative campaigning). Take away the bits that are bad or ugly from these broadcasts, and most parties would have any material left.

Political campaigning should always present a positive case for your candidate or party, rather than rely on attacking the opposition. And it should always be focused on the election in hand. If parties run their local election campaigns on national issues, then they are sending the message that what happens in local government doesn’t matter. If we, the electorate, buy into that message, then we don’t deserve hard-working councillors who act as public servants. Instead, we’ll get what we do deserve – councillors who do whatever their party’s head office tells them, regardless of the needs of the area. Or we’ll get councillors who do absolutely nothing, and are there only because we want to give whoever is in government a bloody nose.

In case you think I’m just ranting for the sake of it, here’s a quick summary at the election broadcasts so far for the English local elections (I don’t have time to look at London, Scotland, or Wales) by party:

Labour are attacking the Tories on the NHS, saying that a vote for them is a vote to protect it. This claim is complete nonsense. These elections are for local councillors, who have absolutely no power over the NHS. And there’s not even a hint of positive vision. “Labour values” (whatever that means) are mentioned, but nobody says what they are. There’s no alternative vision being offered. And there’s also no recognition that there are options outside the big two parties.

The Tories are attacking Labour for high salaries given to council executives, and for high levels of council tax. These are at least local issues. However, in addition to being negative, they are clearly only telling partial truths. They say that Conservative run councils will have lower council tax. But they don’t mention that this is because Conservative councils tend to be in rich areas with fewer social needs (and, hence, council spending). Or that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councils are being spared the worst of the cuts being made to local government budgets by central government. And, like Labour, they come across as ignorant of the fact that we are now living in a multi-party democracy, rather than a two-party one.

The Lib Dems, who used to understand that local elections are about local issues, are talking exclusively about the things they claim they have achieved in the coalition. They mention tax cuts for most people, tax rises for the super-rich (but wasn’t the top rate of tax cut in the budget?), and a pension rise. The problem here is that no matter how much or little they have achieved in government, it has no relevance to what their council candidates will do if elected. Council elections should be about issues that can be dealt with by councils. And this broadcast simply isn’t.

UKIP basically attack both Labour and the Tories for the first half of their broadcast. But they do at least go on to talk about local councils, and how they hope to improve things if elected. They say that UKIP-controlled Ramsey Town Council has put some more police on the street (which is something I thought would be beyond the control of a town council – which has very little actual power) and made the place cleaner. It’s not much, but it is at least the kind of thing that’s relevant to the kind of election that is actually happening.

There is, however, one election broadcast which is entirely positive, and is also focused on local issues, rather than Parliamentary ones. The Green Party’s election broadcast focuses entirely on the positive things we hope to achieve on local councils. We’re using the same broadcast for our English, Welsh, and London election broadcasts. And we’re also continuing our tradition of giving you something which is innovative in the way it puts the message across. Here it is. Enjoy:

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