|Welcome to the first edition of FH POLL POSITION, your weekly email update from FleishmanHillard’s Public Affairs team in London.|
|POLL OF POLLS
First things first – the polls! What’s striking is the consistency of the Labour vote over the last six weeks. Unfortunately for them, it is consistently underperforming for an Opposition Party this close to the General Election. And at this rate, Nick Clegg – the only member of the current Cabinet to have an industrial seat, could be about to lose it – everyone and their dog will be looking toward South Yorkshire to see if Clegg has his ‘Portillo moment’. We think he might.
We’re sure you like a flutter – but what are the odds? Here are the latest, should you be thinking of taking a punt this Easter. As you can see from Nick Williams’ PA blackboard, if you put £100 on Labour getting a majority, you’d get £162.50 back, whereas £100 for the Conservatives would get you £144.44 back. The Labour odds are somewhat different to the political ones offered this week by the Conservatives’ Party Chair Grant Shapps, who got skewered on Newsnight by Evan Davis after saying that a gamble on Labour wouldn’t get you anything back – in fact, you’d be down £3k. Davis argued it would be more like £100, according to independent figures. Share the awkwardness here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGaTm2epsAQ
DIVIDING LINE OF THE WEEK
Simply this – 100 business people, most of whom were always going to vote for the Conservatives wrote a letter saying they were going to vote for the Conservatives. Labour’s retort was clever: 100 ordinary people from various public sector jobs (and the obligatory Hampstead luvvies) said that they would support Miliband. Although not as spun as the Conservative letter, Labour’s retort took the sting out the event mostly by being quick off the mark. It also highlighted what the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire said should be a key message for voters: “don’t vote according to a letter in the Telegraph, vote for you”.
Yes, we have graphs! Here’s David Cameron riding high with 240,802 social media mentions in the last seven days with David Miliband just a few tweets down. Showing his ability to garner exposure that goes way beyond the size of his electoral base, Nigel Farage has almost twice as many mentions as Nick Clegg.
It certainly doesn’t have the fervor of 2010. Not many posters are up, few garden stakes and people are still chatting about the latest reality TV shows than the reality of a potential change in Government. But it’s early days. The campaigns now feature epic spikes in the form of the TV debates and it’s almost as though the punters are waiting on those to spark it all into life. As we remind you below, the main one is at 8pm tonight – the only chance to see Cameron debating with the other party leaders. As there are 7 of them and thus will have just a small amount of air time, he should feel confident that the chances of making a mistake will be limited. But the consensus is that Miliband performed better in last week’s rather anachronistic grilling by Jeremy Paxman. In that interview, he seemed stronger, more at ease, and tough. He needs to – his perception as a posh nerd from NW3 remain strong among the public. Cameron appeared evasive and astonishingly ill at ease for a man who can so easily communicate clearly. Under some pressure is Nigel Farage, who is about to experience the latter end of the British media’s unique skill at building people up and then crushing them to dust. For the Liberal Democrats, May will be a sad time but one for positive reflection on a broadly successful Coalition and some key policies realized into law. The Liberal Democrats need some time to work out who they are, who they want to appeal to and rebuild that once formidable powerbase of local volunteers – at one point, it was said you were never more than a metre away from a Lib Dem leafleter. Now, it’s just rats. However, Clegg did very well in the 2010 debate, and this is his opportunity to spark some life into proceedings.
TOP OF THE TWEETS
Well, they’re not setting twitter on fire yet. For example, Miliband dominated last week with 1,700 re-tweets for a polite thank you. Surprisingly, Cameron scored well with a video about the NHS and, no, we didn’t watch it either. Meanwhile, Nick Clegg came last with a rather surreal tweet thanking Joey Essex for meeting him. Is it that bad? Yes!
FROM OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
Thank you FleishmanHillard Berlin for their wry observation on how the election is being perceived in Germany.
“There are two issues prevailing in the German debate about the UK elections: who will come out as the winner and what would an EU exit of the UK mean for Germany?
“As the latest polls do not seem to predict an absolute majority for any of the parties, German media focuses on two candidates, Cameron and Miliband. While the first one is considered a hardliner whose campaign is about social cuts and an EU referendum, the latter is perceived as a soft, reserved intellectual who will be unable to prevail.
“With the UK being the second largest economy in the EU and London being an outstandingly important economic and financial hub, many concerns are raised in Germany on a possible EU exit. Industry and politics mostly expect negative implications on employment and growth if the UK was not part of the European Single Market anymore. Politically, London is perceived as a key ally for Berlin in Europe when it comes to issues like the importance of competitiveness and a general liberal economic orientation of the political agenda”.
FROM THE FRONT LINE
We’ve asked one ‘high-flying’ candidate to anonymously give us his view of the election from the perspective of the political frontline. In other words, meeting the public. This is the poor soul’s first war report.
“People in various states of (un)dress; the occasional attack dog that’s a taste for fingers through the letterbox; blank faces and the occasional expression of “very firm views” – campaigning for a political party is never dull.
“Visiting residents door to door is a peculiarly British tradition. Observers from other European nations always tend to think it’s slightly mad, but I think it’s one of the main ways of keeping our democracy in touch with the people we’re keen to work on behalf of.
Here’s how campaigning “on the #labourdoorstep” is looking at the moment, boiled down to the key conversations, some perennial, and some specific to this election:
1) “You only ever call at an election” – people tend to have a broad view of this; in a key seat I volunteer in, there are elections every May and this question starts as early as October.
2) “We never see you around here” – this is an oft-repeated refrain, as you stand very tangibly at their doorstep, safe in the knowledge that it says on the canvass sheets they were called upon at least once in the last six months, and have had a leaflet delivered in the meantime…
3) “How much do you get paid to do this?” – oh would that we were. They say democracy isn’t cheap, but it is based on hundreds of thousands of hours of voluntary time from very dedicated activists who believe in their political goals.
4) “That Gordon Brown sold all the ******* gold” – this has to be one of the most effective attack lines deployed in recent years, and still comes up today, despite it being not (entirely) true. To be fair, he used it to buy Euros. Oh..
5) “I’m very worried about the NHS” – this is a hugely effective campaign by the Labour Party that chimes with people’s experience of the service and what they read in their local press – expect this to be a cornerstone of the Labour Party campaign as it comes up on the doorstep all the time.
6) “they’re all the same” – this may come down to the fact that the three main party leaders are about the same age, same ethnicity, same family structure as it’s pretty well established that this election is more polarized than in decades. One resident recently said “that Ed Miliband, he went to Eton, he goes on about it all the time”, which is an interesting view given he went to a North London comprehensive.
7) “I voted LibDem last time, what a mistake that was” – sadly for the LibDems, this is a rather common view on the doorstep…
8) “I joined the Greens recently, but I’m still voting Labour” – ???!
9) “you can have this back” – I’ve never understood people who walk down the street after you to give back a leaflet you posted. It’s passion of some sort I suppose…
10) “don’t waste your time here love, we’re all labour and always have been” – God bless these people (and would you please take a poster?).
General Elections are stimulating and exciting times to be a political campaigner – it’s the one time every five years that voters are genuinely engaged with the political process, and in the main do have a view about how they want the country to be run. Long may our tradition of doorstep conversations continue!”
The lobby’s finest are in great form. Here are the latest highlights.
“OK, screw the election. Cagney & Lacey are on” – Dan Hodges, Daily Telegraph
“Tonight is a bad Christmas carol: 34 days to go, 7 political leaders, 4 snaaaaaap polls. What I wouldn’t give for a partridge in a pear tree” – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times
“Love that new Twitter arrival @BorisJohnson only following 2 people. One of them is David Cameron. Of course, Boris aims to follow Cameron” – Iain Martin, Daily Telegraph
It’s the TV Debate tonight 8pm to 10pm on ITV. Alternatively, other channels are offering: “Criminals Caught on Camera”, “Glasgow’s Killing Streets”, “Life and Death Row” and “Masterchef”.
Have a great Easter and we will be back after the UK Bank Holidays. In the meantime, follow us on our new election twitter channel @FHUKPolitics