04 March 2007

However rubbish you think I am, that other lot are worse!

This seems to be the message of the Labour campaign. Scotland on Sunday reports that Labour have in effect given up on running a positive campaign and will focus on two months of Nat-bashing.

The murmurs are that whatever they say about what they've done or what they're going to do, people won't believe them, so their best bet is to slag off the SNP and hope that they scare voters enough that they won't vote for them. But seeing as they've admitted that no one believes them anymore, why do they think that voters will believe this?

I am not a lover of negative campaigning, and I cringe when anyone stoops to the level of mudslinging. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you provide people with reasons to vote for you, people will take them on board and they might well vote for you. If you provide reasons not to vote for the other guy, people will still take them on board and they probably won't vote for them, but they have no reason to vote for you either. The result: they stay at home. Labour should withdraw from all campaigns to increase the turnout now as their message is 'Don't vote for that lot', not 'Do vote for us'.

There is a logic to Labour not being in a position to talk about their future policies: they've been in charge at Westminster since May 1997, and have led the Scottish Executive since May 1999, so there's a sense in which anything they propose can be answered by saying, 'Why are you only doing this now? Why haven't you managed to do it already?' That said, having been in charge for a decade (as it will be by polling day), they should have a record good enough to stand on. Instead they have admitted, at least to themselves, that people don't think much of their record to date. What a humiliating admission!

So they are left with the option of slagging off the others. We have Cathy Jamieson spinning every question, every briefing, every press conference onto their perceived perils of independence. We have Jack McConnell criticising Alex Salmond for staying at Westminster (no mention of George Foulkes, who didn't even stand in 1999 or 2003, and even took a peerage before seeking election to Holyrood). Most baffling of all, we have Foulkes himself criticising Salmond for the same reasons! Oh, and we also have bloggers like Terry Kelly.

But let's look at their record. In 1997 Tony Blair could have stood on a platform and done the Birdie Song (and the Birdie Dance), and would still have got in. However, the other campaigns can best be summed up as follows:

1999 - Oh, my, would independence be a scary thing? Vote for us, and we'll keep it away.
2001 - Oh, my, wasn't Margaret Thatcher a horrible woman? Vote for us, and we'll stop her policies from coming back.
2003 - Oh, my, isn't independence such an uncertainty? Vote for us, we won't do anything of note but at least we're predictable.
2005 - Oh, my, isn't Michael Howard evil? You'd better vote for us, and he'll go away.

So really, we shouldn't be shocked by this move: it's Labour's modus operandi. They can't campaign without evoking memories of a Tory government that fell in 1997 (yet rather than seek to undo what happened in that period, they've instead bought into the ideas that came to the fore at that time), or evoking fears of what the SNP might do.

I was a fan of The West Wing, and I recall a flashback scene in one episode where Josh was on Senator Hoynes's campaign staff. Midway through a meeting, he complains: "I don't know what we're for! All I know is that we're for winning, and against someone else winning!" When I first saw that scene, I realised just how true that was of the current Labour party.

Of course, in The West Wing, Josh went to work for Jed Bartlet, who then won the Democratic nomination, and the Presidency. Hoynes had to settle for the Number 2 position. Labour activists, particularly those who love The West Wing (and there are a good number of them, I think), might wish to reflect on that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jack is value for money all the same. But not as an FM.