Campaigns matter.

Campaigns matter.

The Power of Election Campaigns: Debunking the Myth

Source: The Economist

Political scientists often dismiss the significance of election campaigns, claiming that they have minimal impact on the outcome. However, recent events have demonstrated that campaigns can make or break a candidate’s chances. Take, for instance, the 2017 general election in the UK, where Theresa May’s Conservative Party fell short against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. This unexpected outcome reveals the power and influence of election campaigns.

When Theresa May called for the snap election in April 2017, her party had a 20-point lead over Labour. Even in the local elections held on May 4th, the Conservatives outperformed Labour by an average of ten points. The momentum seemed to be firmly in the Conservative Party’s favor, as they even won the mayorship of the traditionally Labour-leaning West Midlands. But then came the campaign.

Theresa May’s campaign was marred by a series of mistakes, turning what should have been an easy victory into a spectacular defeat. Her campaign was described as robotic, cliché-ridden, condescending, slapdash, and overall, quite awful. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, initially viewed with low expectations, gained steam and showcased his strengths as a campaigner. His ability to handle hostile interviewers with calmness and clarity endeared him to the public. Crowd sizes at his rallies grew exponentially, creating a sense of excitement among party supporters.

May’s campaign team, however, made four unforgivable mistakes. Firstly, they allowed expectations to spiral out of control, making grandiose predictions of a landslide victory. These lofty expectations were fueled by Nick Timothy, May’s co-chief of staff, who adopted a strategy of winning votes in traditional Labour strongholds. Unfortunately, this approach proved to be a miscalculation.

Secondly, the entire campaign was centered around Theresa May herself, turning the election into a referendum on her leadership abilities and Brexit negotiations. The Conservative Party was nearly obscured from view, as May’s team referred to them as “Theresa’s team” and sidelined prominent cabinet members like Philip Hammond. This narrow focus on May backfired when she performed poorly in interviews and refused to participate in debates.

The third mistake was turning against the most loyal supporters, particularly with the introduction of the controversial “dementia tax” in the manifesto. This proposal suggested that older people with valuable homes should pay more for their care, without placing a cap on the amount they would have to contribute. This created widespread concern, especially among those affected by dementia who could potentially face significant financial burdens. May’s subsequent retreat on the issue only further eroded trust in her leadership.

Lastly, the campaign treated voters with contempt, employing robotic slogans like “strong and stable” and deploying cardboard cutout photo-ops. These tactics, advocated by campaign manager Sir Lynton Crosby, relied on endless repetition and hyper-control. However, voters grew tired of these contrived efforts and sought a more authentic connection with their candidates.

Theresa May’s aim in calling the election was to “guarantee certainty and security for years to come.” However, her disastrous campaign has achieved the opposite effect, casting doubt on her ability to provide stability in the coming months.

This election in the UK serves as a powerful reminder that election campaigns matter. They have the power to shape public opinion, change perceptions, and determine electoral outcomes. While political scientists may downplay their significance, real-world examples demonstrate that campaigns can make or break a candidate’s chances. It’s crucial for politicians to seize the opportunity to connect with voters, deliver inspiring messages, and avoid complacency. The impact of an election campaign should not be underestimated, as it can redefine the political landscape and shape the future of nations.