How difficult is it campaigning on your record?

How difficult is it campaigning on your record?

Is this why going negative is more effective?

The YouTube from Labour’s unsuccessful 1970 re-election campaign is pretty feeble by modern standards but highlights a challenge faced by all governments when they seek re-election – how to campaign on their record?

For in every general election people are looking forward and reeling off numbers about the past often does to resonate. It can sound tedious and boring and in any case who cares? What voters want to know is that will happen in the future.

Take as an example the NHS where there has seen a step change in government spending and this appears to be showing through in the polls in that the public are less concerned about it. The question is whether as we get closer to a general election this is good for Labour?

Will, come the day a grateful electorate thank Brown for what has gone on – or will they say “well we’ve put the extra money in through higher taxes in return for a better service”. The question is how well you have spent it.

It will be recalled that after the 2001 election victory there was a tax hike specifically for the NHS. This I believed changed the relationship between tax-payer and government. We were paying more with the expectation of a better service – almost like a consumer transaction.

It’s here that I believe there is a danger for ministers when they try to take credit and one of the reasons why it’s going to be hard trying to make policy on the NHS one of the famous dividing lines.

If Brown is still in office at the election then how the government uses numbers and talks about what it has done is going to be crucial.

One of the key things I’ll be looking for during next month’s party conference is the rhetoric. Have they got words and phrases that resonate? Blair was very good at this – how will Brown do?

Mike Smithson

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