There are just a couple of weeks to go before the end of the campaign but I still can’t quite make up my mind. What has been the worst piece of political campaign material in the AV debate so far?
I thought No had the edge in irrelevant stupidity with the “This baby needs an incubator not an alternative voting system” ads. Then I saw the Yes TV ad which has MPs running scared while people yell at them through megaphones.
Both sides are taking part in the customary celebrity arms race – Yes has royalty in the shape of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. No seems to have bagged Peter Stringfellow (hmm). The best comment I’ve seen so far on this game of Celebrity Top Trumps was Armando Iannucci’s:
Loads of celebs in AV debate. If YES wins you get Eddie Izzard, NO gets Rik Mayall. As a 3rd rate celeb, I’ll hold the balance of power
Yes is pinning its hopes on the fact that we are so disgusted with “our broken political system” that we want to punish MPs by changing the way they’re elected.
What we’re missing is a sign that anyone connected with either campaign is thinking about anything other than slinging mud at the other guys. Is anyone analysing what the audience might actually want or need to know before they decide to change – or not change – the voting system? Because if they are it’s not showing out here in the real world.
There are few precedents for how to campaign in a referendum when political parties are split. The obvious one is the 1975 referendum on membership of the EC
. I don’t remember it myself, so I looked it up to see what campaigning was like back in communication’s dark age:
Television broadcasts were used by both campaigns, like party political broadcasts
during general elections
. They were broadcast simultaneously on all three terrestrial channels: BBC 1
, BBC 2
. They attracted audiences of up to 20 million viewers. The “Yes” campaign advertisements were thought to be much more effective, showing their speakers listening to and answering people’s concerns, while the “No” campaign’s broadcasts featured speakers reading from an autocue
Listening to and answering people’s concerns, eh? What will they think of next… They had really informative (though extremely long) leaflets about the issues too
AV is a classic example of a campaign that no-one wanted or believes in. The No-
s think it’s a sop to the Lib Dems to keep them onside in the Coalition. The Yes-
es really want to be talking about PR
. And it really shows. It’s not just that I feel personally insulted by their rock-bottom estimation of my intelligence. I also feel professionally ashamed of the woefully low level of comms skills on display.
No wonder it’s been estimated
that voter-turnout where there are no local elections could be as low as 20%. Electoral reform is always going to be a tough comms sell. But what a wasted opportunity to have a grown-up debate.