In what has been called the most stage-managed campaign in history, it’s not a crowded field when it comes to picking out the best speech of the election. However, the winner by a country-mile was David Cameron’s speech in Yeovil this afternoon.
The Prime Minister needed a speech like this for two reasons.
First, Cameron has been criticised recently for failing to show enough drive or passion in the campaign so far. There was a danger of this following the decision not to take part in all the TV debates – allowing other party leaders to take centre stage for the most high profile set piece – and prompting the question, “Does David Cameron really want this enough?”
Secondly, the Conservative campaign’s message discipline on focusing on the party’s economic record has been so effective in cutting through that people have begun to say, “We know about your record on the economy, but what next?”
The PM’s speech in Somerset today emphatically answered both questions. It was typical Cameron: coming out fighting only once his back was against the wall.
The passion in the delivery was superb, but so was the flow and structure. He first reminded people of what the party found when entering government five years ago; the public finances “teetering on the brink” and that famous note from Labour saying “there is no money”. He went on to list his administration’s achievements: three million low paid people taken out of paying income tax, two million new jobs, youth unemployment down, strongest economic growth of any major western economy. But crucially the narrative (and yes, I actually do mean the narrative) but signally what he’ll do next: take those on the minimum wage out of income tax altogether, provide help for families with 30 hours free childcare and, within the first 100 days, provide help for small businesses by continuing the tax-cutting, de-regulation agenda.
From foundation, to good (economic) news, to good lives. The Conservative message has been completed – and not a moment too soon.
10 days to go.
The accusations against Cameron not working hard enough or not wanting to win enough certainly don’t stack up against his work rate – according to the BBC.
Does your election campaign involve targeting parents at the school gates? There’s a right way and a bad way to do this.
Elections have become increasingly data-driven in recent times. Make no mistake, this is a good thing. Successful campaigns have always been a mixture of art and science but in my view if you don’t have good information, you can’t run a good campaign.
That being said, there will be plenty of candidates (from both major and minor parties) running campaigns that are all about “visibility”. This can because there isn’t the manpower, money and/or software to do anything else. It means spending plenty of time irritating commuters at stations, delivering shed loads of national-copy leaflets and spamming everyone on social media. Posters sites are like candidate catnip.
It may also mean trying to engage with parents at school closing time.
When running the campaign in a marginal seat during the 2010 general election I was glad to be able to draw on the experience of a number of seasoned campaigners. The advice I was given by my Campaign Director, Peter Bellini, was very straight-forward: by all means have your candidate hand out flyers to parents waiting outside a school, but as soon as the first child comes out: leave. Suffice as to say, this was excellent advice and given that our leaflets were about education policy it was very successful.
Some people opt to go about things differently with, erm, mixed results. The Labour candidate in Enfield North has not impressed parents in this campaign by turning up with balloons to hand out to primary school children. I also don’t suppose it was impressive for one of her team to tell people who complained about this to “shut up”.
Right way/bad way. I recommend the former.