The same argument comes round every time there is an impending general election. The posters, slogans and well rehearsed soundbites are all revealed, and the loudest voices generally condemn them all as naff, shallow, ineffective or worse, counter-effective. They are evidence of an absence of real policy, substance and furthermore, why are they spending all this money on aggressive brand-politics when the country is flat-broke (that argument’s newer than the others)? You might have seen David Cameron’s massive face enigmatically staring down at you from a local billboard. You might be aware that his, ‘I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’ poster inspired a website, mydavidcameron.com, where you can write in your own text/paste your own images and create an hilarious spoof. The enormous popularity of this website has led some to argue that the poster was a political miscalculation, a shot fired at one’s own foot, a political mistake. This is nonsense.
There are several reasons why the lampooning of political branding does not mean it has failed. Not all publicity is good publicity, but it almost is. If the Tories had released a poster with an accidental typo that meant it actually said, ‘David Cameron likes sexy kids’, then that would indeed be bad publicity. But a poster that spawns an internet viral? That has to be good. Yes, the majority of people who visit mydavidcameron.com do so to make fun of the poster, but every single person that clicks that link also sees the original poster; far more than would have seen it on billboards. Not all of them will be staunchly anti-Cameron. Likewise, those who are will hardly have been converted by somebody else’s spoof of the poster. As an aside I would also add that the complete absence of any genuinely funny parodies does their cause no favours. I doubt that, ‘I’ll show you my policies if you show me yours first’, will have many rolling in the aisles. I mean if you’re going to take the piss, do it properly.
Then there is the issue of airbrushing. Lefties jumped on the accusation, endorsed and possibly initiated by Clifford Singer, creator of mydavidcameron.com, that Cameron’s poster had been airbrushed. No doubt it was. If I was going to have my face pasted onto 15ft high billboards I would make damn sure it got the Photoshop once-over. But make fun of it by all means, no problem with that. What made the accusations look slightly silly was that Labour, once they adopted Singer’s campaign as their own (having repeatedly denounced negative campaigning over the last few months) took to airbrushing the poster themselves so badly as to make it incredibly obvious. You have to ask yourself, when presented with such an easy target, what does it say about your ability to do absolutely anything at all if you then go right ahead and cock it up?
Undeterred, Liberalconspiracy.org are delighting in the fact that even Daily Mail readers think Cameron’s poster has backfired. In response I would first point out that you are polling people who read Mail Online and therefore a) hate David Cameron’s brand of Toryism and are b) pond life. After that I would simply direct you to some of the other polls conducted by the Mail Online, which have included, ‘Should the NHS allow gypsies to jump the queue?’, and ‘Should celebrities look perfect all the time?’. So, I think that’s that dealt with.
I look forward with immense excitement at Labour’s campaign strategy. They have no money so I doubt whether there will be posters (or even a strategy), but if there are I suspect there will be a national outcry, possibly a military coup, if Gordon Brown’s face is not airbrushed. But whichever way the campaign goes, the silent majority are forgotten at the pundits’ peril. They are in favour of every political campaign. That is why they remain silent. We pro-actively express dissent and silently express our agreement; casting a vote makes no sound at all.