Listening to Boris Johnson and Theresa May at a campaign rally

Yours truly got an invitation to attend a Conservative campaign rally, held in an empty warehouse/office building in the Slough Trading Estate.

My was I thankful it was held indoors, as queuing to get in was mostly in the rain – did take my brolly, for which I was thankful.

Boris was the warm-up speaker for Theresa May, and frequently referred to his script. Theresa May, impressively, spoke without a script, covering a lot of political issues. Good to be close-by both Boris and the PM, and to hear them speak. It’s easy to criticise politicians for what they say, and the way they say it – however, it takes no little courage and emotional energy to deliver a political speech with an audience so close to you. In the BBC’s Ben Wright photo of the rally, I’m in the front to the right, though not visible – wasn’t keen to be behind holding a placard, as wanted to see their faces.

I’ve not been as politically active at this election as I have in the past, so was pleased to get an invite. The rally was well organised with refreshments and biscuits available when inside the venue – pleased to say there were bourbon biscuits on offer – though not so many for those following me.

Oh, the damage that a tweet can do

It’s always been the case that when writing or saying things to a public audience one should always exercise caution. Before posting a letter, or pressing the send key on an email, there’s an opportunity to pause and reflect before taking such action.

It’s the immediacy of social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and so many more, that attracts. The penalty is removal of the necessary moment of reflection.

No better advert of this is with Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s tweet during her canvassing in the Rochester & Strood by-election. Whatever interpretation you put on her tweet [see below], most people, and the media, seem to have taken the most negative. It’s the fact that her ill considered thought was given immediate expression through Twitter and the consequent widespread public attention that became her undoing.  Just look at the Sun newspaper front page today [again below] to see the damage one ill considered tweet can do.

Emily Thornberry Twitter The Sun

The Americanisation of the London Mayoral election

Having contributed a small amount to help Boris get elected as London Mayor, I get regular email updates from his and his team.

In January Boris informed me in an email that “The Evening Standard has today revealed that 2010 saw the lowest murder rate in London since 1978.”, and he’s kept me informed on the Olympics, the trains and more.

However, the election for Mayor of London isn’t until May 2012. The increase in emails and campaign websites is a sure sign that we’re copying the US model of beginning electioneering over a year out from the election. Not entirely sure that this is a good thing. It’s not only wearing on the campaign team but also supporters. But, hey, since it’s Boris, there’s bound to be some humour among the policy announcements.

In March Boris’s team told me about a new website – Not Ken Again – with the strap line “The web site that every Londoner should read … but Ken hopes you never will”.

Then this week Boris launched his super whizzy new activist Back Boris 2012 web site, adopting the tactics familiar to US elections – relentless promotion, elector involvement, online comment, and use of social media. Here’s what Boris’s email about this new website said,

“By signing up for your own personal Online Activist dashboard, you can connect directly with activists across the capital and share knowledge and ideas.

It also means you can feedback on-the-ground intelligence to the team at campaign HQ and will receive exclusive access to Activist-only updates and challenges.”

This is pioneering stuff for UK elections. Anything that increases involvement is politics at the ‘grass-roots’ level is a wholly good thing. It’s just that we’ll have to accept now that election campaigning doesn’t happen a matter of weeks or months before an election – it’s now in years.

Andrew Neil’s interviews with Labour leadership contenders

Yep, it’s a slow news day. I’m going back to Andrew Neil’s interview of Ed Miliband in last week’s This Week programme on BBC. Sadly the last in the series until September 23rd.

Andrew’s interview with Ed Mili was the last of his interviews of the Labour leadership contenders. Neil is the sharpest political interviewer on TV, and again his dissection of Ed Mili’s policy positions and brotherly competition proved it.

I know that these interviews are short and don’t allow in-depth discussion. Never the less they’re valuable pointers. Ed Mili came across as having less gravitas than expected, with him responding to one of Neil’s questions about his newness as an MP. And that was it really. Insufficient depth of experience.

Overall, the clear winner for me from Neil’s interviews was David Miliband. With better skills than any of the others in handling sharp political questioning and debate.

However, David Miliband isn’t in my estimation the sort of politician who can connect with the electorate. Labour would have been better served by appointing a stop-gap leader, such as Alastair Darling. It would have been better to begin the process of choosing a new leader at the Labour Party Conference. All the candidates, except Diane Abbott, are damaged by their recency in office, and have had insufficient time to develop a policy portfolio away from electoral hustings. But hey, it’s not my party, so my view doesn’t count a heap.

MILI-UPDATE: Paul Waugh has lots on the Mili-D and Mili-E sibling battle.

Elvis votes Labour

Today, Gordon Brown addressed an audience of supporters at Lodge Park Technology College in Corby, and, unbelievably, introduced a ‘mega’ new supporter, Elvis. Think it’s a joke? No, watch a short clip of the event HERE.

As a side-show this might be just about acceptable. Is this the best means that Labour can find to launch their election theme of the day? Heck, Gordon is still our Prime Minister.

Here’s what the News of the World reports Gordon Brown as saying:

“I’m here to introduce a celebrity that has been widely advertised on the Twitter network. Only four per cent of people in the UK believe Elvis Presley is still alive, and I believe there will be only four per cent of people in this country by the end of the election who believe the Conservative party are not a risk to the economy.”

Clunk! Labour are heading for oblivion if this is their new election strategy. Here are some other views on this stunt,

New facts support Cameron’s new poster

Following a Freedom of Information request, the government have released data about employment at the London Olympic construction site, and it’s startling.  The figures show that of 6,277 people working on the site in East London, only 828 are British nationals. 

The figures support Conservatives desire to do something about welfare dependency, as they say on their new poster. Great timing.

Cameron favours postivism

I caught David Cameron on TV at an election rally in Burton on Trent, and my previous post seems to be in line Cameron’s approach, pleasingly. He said that he’d keep to positive campaigning and offer a sharper vision of the alternatives on offer. Just what’s needed.

Public service: manifesto download

Apart from the Greens and Scottish Lib Dems, all political parties have published their manifesto’s. Feeling a need to provide a public service, here are the links to where you can download them [although I struggled to find the actual manifesto documents for Scottish parties, maybe you can find them].

Political posters and popular culture – a difficult marriage

Combining politics and popular culture successfully, now, that’s an art. That it happens so rarely should be no surprise, afterall political posters by their very nature are sharply critical, while popular culture is essentially aspirational.

Following the Conservatives initial poster campaign, which I liked, I’ve watched with a degree of sadness the poster campaigns descend into online knocking copy that only talk to a narrow political activist audience. Posters are a five second hit. Success is carefully chosen images, typeface, graphics, and message, and they need to be seen on big billboards, and most importantly, all over the place.

By amazing good fortune the Conservatives are the beneficiaries of a failure by Labour to successfully combine the political message and popular culture. Labour’s failed poster, and the Tories successful hijacking of it, is everywhere in the weekend press. Here’s the progression, Labour’s failed poster, Conservative’s masterful quick response, then followed by a less successful spoof poster[go to the Daily Mail article – Labour scores own goal to see it]. I hope you see what I mean.

Ooooh, now you can even buy a T-shirt of the Tories poster. Hmmm, tempted.

The best political advert of the campaign so far

The Conservatives have released a campaign advert for Antony Calvert, their candidate to fight Labour cabinet minister, and key Gordon Brown henchman, Ed Balls’  new parliamentary seat, Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire.

Guido Fawkes reckons he’s going to give more than a tenner to help remove Ed Balls. The video isn’t on YouTube yet, so you’ll have to go to Guido, or Iain Dale, if the comments in Guido offend.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The advert is so good it had me reaching for my wallet too. Something to cheer my inner-Tory on a dismal post-budget day. Watch it, and see what you think. The delicious way in which Michael Portillo’s defeat is used will please many a Tory voter, as will the appealing nature of Antony Calvert’s straightforward campaign message, and the play on Ed Balls’ surname always raises a smile.