Election 2005: the battle of Blair’s grin?

Election 2005: the battle of Blair’s grin?

    Is Howard’s attack the product of Crosby’s focus groups?

Probably the most intriguing element from the launches the party election campaigns was Michael Howard ‘s use of language and his emphasis on Tony Blair’s grin

As the Sun reports it this morning… TORY leader Michael Howard yesterday urged voters to wipe the smile from the Prime Minister’s face on May 5. He said: “Tony Blair is already secretly grinning at the prospect of his third victory. You don’t have to settle for that.”

The Guardian takes up the same theme reporting that .. “Michael Howard embarked on a three-date tour yesterday as he launched the Conservative election campaign with a strong attack on the “smirking politics” of Tony Blair.

And Simon Carr in the Independent also follows the line…Michael Howard launched his own campaign with a stinging attack on the Prime Minister’s smile. It must be some focus group thing. People say they don’t like it. “Smirking politics”, Mr Howard called it. Yes, and he was “already secretly grinning” at the thought of all the land between Oxford and Winchester being turned into transit camps for asylum-seeking Gypsy scroungers who’ve skipped bail to beat up pensioners with their Asbos.

Carr is surely right when he suggests that this line of attack has come from voter research and it follows very much in the manner of the Australian campaigns which have been run by the Tory supremo, Lynton Crosby. You find what really gets to people about the opponent and then you evolve a simple language that gets the point across.

    It might be that a beneficiary of this are the Lib Dems who, in many ways, hold the secret of this election.

A lot of 1997 and 2001 Labour voters are not going to switch to the Tories but if they don’t vote or go with Charles Kennedy’s party then Crosby has won half his battle. We’ve been arguing here for months that outcome of this election will be determined by how the aggregate Labour/Lib Dem vote splits. Maybe part of Crosby’s campaign is designed to deter Labour voters from going to the polls or encouraging them to switch to the Lib Dems?

Meanwhile the boss of Mori, Bob Worcester, has a good feature on voter volatility on the firm’s web-site. Having been polling in the UK for longer than anybody else the firm has a huge amount of past data to compare with and the striking feature of the start of this current election is how few people have made up their minds. In 1997 at this stage 25% were undecided; four years ago that had risen to more than a third while the current proportion is 41%.

Mike Smithson

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