So far, the pre-election campaign has been rather dull. I hope that, now the campaign is officially under way, it will liven up and becoming more likely to grab the electorate's attention.
Although all parties (well, most of them anyway) have some value and validity, realistically it is only the two parties who have any realistic possibility of forming or (in coalition) leading the next national government are Labour and the Conservatives.
Labour have at least got an actor to participate in this evening's election broadcast – something they've tried before, as have others. Getting a celebrity's endorsement of – and, even better, participation in – a party's campaign is often thought by party campaign managers and other senior members of a party as welcome and helpful.
It probably is, but is it justified? Only if the end can somehow be said to justify the means – but not for an honest party, for the reasons that Daniel Hannan warned about four years ago, among others I could mention, and indeed have touched on two or three times in recent years. For today, though, Dan's piece will more than suffice.
Apart from that, Labour has so far shown little really aspirational stuff, just anti-Conservatism and anti-Coalition stances as usual. Boring and tedious! There is also little appearance of their party leader – who, most notably, has been conspicuously left off many of their candidate's materials completely. That in itself is very telling indeed...
As for the Conservatives, their workmanlike approach is adequate, if not exactly innovative, and mostly looking back at past successes. The trouble with that is that it is repetitive with no new material coming through (unless some news suddenly appears, so is reactive), and gives no real look to the future apart from a nebulous 'we shall do such-and-such in the next five years' and no more.
Now, looking to past success is a good, solid foundation, and reinforcement through repetition is the second biggest reason we have political soundbite slogans' (the first is for headlines in the media). Nevertheless, one doesn't make a house by merely laying the foundation. It needs more – something more 'concrete' for the future than mere, well, concrete!
If I were the Conservative strategist, I'd be preparing two very specific election broadcasts. One would be a carefully-crafted, non-exaggerated and as factual as possible, year-by-year account of how a typical family would be faring under a majority Conservative government, from now, so six brief episodes in all.
The other would feature (a) another, somewhat similar but clearly different family; (b) a pensioner; and (c) a University student living away from home. The story (again portrayed as accurately as possibly and without hyperbole) would be a 'fork in the road', and would show each of these players five years hence under a Labour or Labour-led government, and then under a Conservative government (that way around, to end on a high note).
For all I know, perhaps such works are being prepared right now – but indications so far, including attitudes and near-robotic sharing/re-tweeting the party's national output out in the country (including in my broad area of west and north Kent), suggest that they are content to keep to the old, traditional ways, with momentary flashes of innovation that will make (at most) small differences in safe seats and excite no-one 'floating' in any of the marginals.
I could of course be wrong – and of course I realise that all the donkey work still has to be done come what may, and rightly so, so no complaint or otherwise on that score – but the way the party is 'selling' itself, its candidates and its plans for all our futures, deserves to be re-thought and raised several notches.
It also needs to be geared more to drawing people in, rather than just spouting lines and statistics at them like some kind of lecturer. That approach no longer really works in today's society. David Cameron's occasional brief summary at Prime Minister's Questions does that with much greater impact in just a few seconds: "Growth up, employment up, unemployment down, the deficit halved" – that kind of approach, but make it secondary and brief like that!
UPDATE @ 1700 hrs: This by Peter Bingle at Total Politics today not only fits well with what I have written here, it goes further with some additional ideas and is also well worth reading.
Just for information: I am not attempting to get myself recruited as a party strategist, just trying to be helpful!