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The Campaign 2015: The Starting Gun

The Hippo Collective Politics and Current Affairs section is proud to present its newest weekly feature, ‘The Campaign 2015’; we will follow the battle for Westminster from now to election day (and likely a little beyond!), giving you everything you need to know about the Campaign.

Election Campaigns don’t have a beginning, nor a starting gun – you just wake up one day, look at the news and find its well under way. So here we are, 88 days to go, and the politicians have come out to play. This election is set to be, in my opinion, a fantastically interesting one. The two main parties are bleeding support, and look like they will need propping up in parliament by some smaller groups – they are also building their war-chests for a second election if the result and subsequent negotiations are inconclusive.

I will start this first edition of ‘The Campaign’ with a summary of how I see the main contenders are planning to lead their campaigns (so this edition will be longer than most), then I’ll look at the recent developments, and finish as I will every edition with a look at the Polls.

 

The Strategies:

Conservatives:

One thing I am sure of with this election is that the Tories will never shut up about the economy. The imported Conservative Strategist Jim Messina (Imported from Obama’s re-election campaign) told Tory MP’s that ‘Any day not spent talking about the economy is a day wasted.’ The economy is an issue dominated by the Conservative’s economic record, and their ‘Long-term-economic-plan’ (not one Prime-Minister’s Questions goes by without this phrase) so the more that people are convinced that it is THE major issue of the election, the more successful conservatives are likely to be. Yesterday I was at an election debate with my local candidates present (here in York), the Conservative candidate, Robert McIlveen, spent 90% of his speaking time on the economy – this is how prospective Conservative MP’s have been trained.

Conservative running of the campaign is skillful, experienced, and backed by some serious money. The Tory’s Australian campaign ‘guru’ Lynton Crosby is in charge, and has been known to bring a level of discipline to campaigns that others struggle to achieve. He is focusing on a ‘Chaos vs. Competence’ strategy, paint the Labour campaign and the future of the country under Miliband as one in ‘Chaos,’ while the slick Tory Campaign and plan for the country show their ‘Competence.’ Keep an eye out for this type of rhetoric. Expect to see plenty of billboards, plenty of criticism of Labour (particularly of Ed Miliband – playing on his unpopularity compared to David Cameron), and a “boring is good” message on the economy.

Labour:

The Labour Party’s strategy is strikingly different. Labour strategists see Conservatives as having dominance over the newspapers, and a leader who comes across better on TV (think bacon sandwiches) so they are taking a personal, ground-up approach. Labour won’t have the funding that the Tories can muster, but they do have about 60,000 more members – they will be fighting Labours “Ground War”, and doing it with an emphasis on winning over voters on a personal level. Labour Candidates will want to talk about food-banks, the NHS (many people have personal feelings towards the NHS with either themselves or a close family member) and say that recovery hasn’t been felt by many people – the so called ‘cost-of-living-crisis’.

At yesterday’s debate the Labour candidate reflected this general strategy in an interesting way, she talked about her own experience and why she has decided to go into politics – she has a history of working in care and is disgusted by the result of recent cuts on the ‘frontline’ services. This personal message makes the story on the doorstep more engaging on a local and personal level, and I think is an interesting response to a distinct Party weakness on the national level.

 

The Last Week:

The Debates Debacle:

Cameron continues to try to dodge taking part in the debates. First there was his ‘principled’ position demanding that if UKIP is included then the Greens should have a place too (the Greens are likely to take votes from Labour – no principles involved here). The broadcasters then invited the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru as they are all considered to be similarly popular, and Cameron responds by demanding that the Northern Irish parties should have a place too. On top of this, No. 10 has said that the debates shouldn’t take place during the campaign itself, as they cause such a fuss and the real issues are forgotten.

In reality the Tory advisers don’t want debates, as they are an uncontrollable variable (as proved by the Lib Dem surge in the last election) and they don’t see it helping David Cameron’s image either. We will have to wait and see how long this will continue – the Tories also don’t want the embarrassment of an empty podium.

Is Labour Bad for Business?

Ed Balls found himself in a sticky situation on Newsnight this week, unable to name any business leaders who supported Labour, and since then questions have been raised about whether the two Ed’s are pro business, with a handful of Entrepreneurs coming out to say they think Labour is not pro-business enough in its rhetoric. The Tories can use this to further their claim over the economy, but in reality there is nothing behind the story – a classic media creation.

Labour responded though, with an attack on Tax havens and tax dodgers. This begun on Wednesday in PMQ’s with an attack from Miliband on Hedge-Funds, accusing the PM of doing nothing to make them pay more tax and claiming that the hedge-funds are big Tory donors – you draw the connection. He has continued today by promising to act to stop tax disappearing to distant tax havens if he wins. Ed makes big threats but the truth of this is that he is powerless to act alone and will need international support to actually get this done.

 

The Polling Report:

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(Courtesy of ukpollingreport.co.uk)

At this very early stage, Labour have the closest of leads, although every indicator points towards a hung Parliament and no majority. Many may be shocked by how low the Lib Dems poll, considering they had over 20% of the vote in 2010, or by how high UKIP are polling, considering they have came up from nowhere. The analysts think, however, that UKIP will struggle to turn these high figures into seats, and the current estimate is at around four seats.

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