The General Election Battle
Yesterday (18th April), Prime Minister Theresa May called a surprise General Election on the 8th June 2017. With such a short period of time to execute a seamless marketing campaign, have the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats learnt anything from previous elections?
A General Election held less than two-months after being called is one of the shortest notice periods in history. The fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 sets the interval between general elections at five years, so the next election isn’t really due until 2020.
Despite the shock announcement, the battle lines for the ensuing marketing campaigns have already been drawn. Obviously Brexit is going to take centre stage over the next 7 weeks, but this election won’t be won on facts and policies, but on convincing voters who they should trust to lead them going forward.
It will be a very different kind of election to those we’ve seen before. It’s going to be about who do you trust, Jeremy Corbin or Theresa May and how big the Conservative majority will be?
The obvious tactic for the Conservatives is to convince voters that they are the only party capable of steering the country through Brexit and the next ten years. The vote was necessary as May prepared to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU, discussions which were being undermined by divisions in Westminster. What the prime minister is promising after June 8, should she remain in power is “certainty” and “stability”.
May’s credibility as the leader to achieve this has been shaped fiercely over the past year under the guidance of Katie Perrior, Director of Communications. And unlike her “glitzy” predecessors, Tony Blair and David Cameron, she has styled herself as “Britain’s first consciously uncool prime minster” and leveraging that to her electoral advantage.
May repeatedly asserted a vote for her was a vote to “get the job done,” and it will be a choice between strong and stable leadership, or a weak and unstable coalition government.
The Liberal Democrats set out their stall last month ahead of local elections when they declared that they were the party for the 48% who voted Remain and consequently have emerged as the party with the clearest proposition heading into the general election. After the election date was set the Lib Dem’s swiftly proclaimed that a vote in their favour was a vote to stop a hard Brexit and their focus will be to convince voters of their ability to pull the plug on negotiations altogether.
And then there’s Mr Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party who are still split on the decision to leave the EU despite Mr Corbyn forcing the party to vote for Article 50. Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has apparently failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and cuts to schools and the NHS.
Tight deadlines mean digital media could win budgets
With just a mere 50 days until the vote, ad campaign strategies are being planned hastily and due to the tight turnaround, digital will emerge as the channel of choice for time-poor planners.
In the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives spent £1.2m of their £15.6m marketing budget on Facebook campaigns, while Labour allocated just over £16K from their £12m budget. Google commanded just over £300,000 from the Conservatives which included YouTube in-stream advertising, compared to Labour’s rather minuscule £371.54. The reason that digital will probably take the lead in terms of campaigning is more to do with timing and planning as it’s easier, more flexible with a quicker turnaround time.
Given the strong words the government had for Google on advertising appearing next to extremist content, it remains to be seen how quick the respective parties will be to invest online. With Facebook being criticised for assisting the spread of fake news during the US Presidential Election, this is the perfect time to prove it can be a reliable source of political coverage. This is probably the first election in the UK to take place in ‘post-filter bubble world’ and after Brexit and Trump people are aware of fake news and the way platform’s algorithms work.
Whilst Brexit will be top of everyone’s agenda along with persuading voters in the “Remain” and “Leave” camps there is a portion of the UK’s electorate that once again is at risk of being forgotten.
The younger generation aged between 18-24, have been reluctant to turn out to elections in their masses, which is the standard trend of recent general elections. Turnout among young people has dropped from over 60% in the early 90’s to an average of 40% over the 2001, 2005 and 2010 General Elections. The potential for a lack of digital communication in this election given its short timeframe goes hand in hand with us missing a portion of younger voters yet again. If the parties don’t engage in a meaningful debate with young people using the right channels we could see the lowest ever youth turnout for an election on record.
In the current political climate, many young people feel increasingly isolated from and disillusioned with the system and how it communicates. The main political parties are not prioritising their needs or listening to their demands, and politicians aren’t communicating with them in a way they understand. If any lessons have been learnt from previous elections, one vital one must be that ensuring this large influential part of the population is heard and engaged with through digital and social media channels to avoid leaving youth voters out in the cold.