Should Labour fight the general election like this?

Should Labour fight the general election like this?

Is there mileage in using some of the C&N rhetoric?

Last week I finalised a chapter on by-elections that I’m contributing to a book on the general election that’s coming out in the autumn. During my researches I found this great site which is building up a collection of campaign materials from almost all by-election campaigns of recent times.

From going through the literature you can get a real feel for how each of battles progressed and one that I had not examined in detail before was the “Anti -Toff” campaign that Labour put together in their unsuccessful defence of Crewe and Nantwich in May 2008.

What struck me was that this controversial element was used in a more sophisticated way than the impression we got from media coverage. This is all about finding a message for the target audience – Labour voters of 2005 who needed to be motivated to go out and vote in the by-election. Labour, of course, was defeated but the total of Labour votes lost was not as bad as in Norwich North.

The “one of us – one of them” gets over the point nicely as does the phrase”Tory boy who’s used to be waited on not serving others”.

So could Labour refine the C&N approach for the general election? For the party will not be after converts – it just wants a way of firing up activists and having messages that will resonate with former voters.

My guess is that many elements in the party would love to campaign like this and that we’ll see something on these lines used in targeted leaflets for distribution in the traditional Labour parts of seats at risk.

They could decide to go for Cameron and those Bullingdon pictures might re-appear. But going for a leader who is liked might be a mistake. A better target would be Osborne even though he didn’t go to Eton but was a day boy at a west London public school.

  • The leaflet featured here was the subject of legal action by the Tories and had to be amended to take away Timpson’s picture. It was reissued with a silhouette in a top hat.
  • Mike Smithson

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