I’m sure I’m not alone in having cringed a little bit at the Lib Dem conference broadcast that was broadcast last week; the cheesy music, the slightly twee shots of Ming playing football. So I am incredibly grateful to the Labour Party for demonstrating just how much worse it could have been (a big cuddle for anyone who can find a link to Labour’s video).
Where we approached a big issue and outlined actual policy to tackle it, Labour simply have Gordon Brown chuntering on about his personality, what kind of person he is, his values and the resilience of the British people. The closest he came to actually talking about what his government has been doing about any of the issues that concern the electorate was two statements of problems we face (housing shortage, and disrespect for NHS workers, bizarrely enough) swiftly followed by gnomic pronouncements that “we’re changing that”. And that’s it. No suggestion of how. No new policy, no new ideas.
And who can blame them? The new policies they have announced recently to look as if they are actually changing things have been so lame it took the press less than five minutes to point out their flaws. Council tax rebate for servicemen and women? Yes, but it’s out of the existing MoD budget. Annual “deep cleans” for hospital wards? Not going to help, daily cleanliness is far more important. And so it goes on.
I have never seen a clearer illustration of how personality driven our main parties are today (if the Tories’ video is a vision of serious policy engagement, I will happily recant in their case, but I’m not holding my breath).
People accused Tony Blair of being presidential, but if that was the case, what on earth do you call Gordon? To see this video, you would come away with the impression that Gordon is the Labour Party. Why else would they spend so much time in their video selling Gordon as a person to us?
Simon Hoggart, grizzled old cynic as he is, has a useful rule of thumb for gauging the facile-ness (facility?) of political speeches: would the opposite statement be a completely outrageous thing to say? On this basis, Gordon Brown’s broadcast says absolutely nothing of substance about anything, except perhaps about himself. He even has to write himself into his little illustrative vignettes of the things government must do (“I first saw the NHS aged 16… rugby accident…etc”). Essentially, the key planks of Gordon Brown’s agenda we can take away from this broadcast are as follows:
1. The NHS is lovely, don’t you think?
2. Educating our children seems like a good idea.
3. Things that people are unhappy about should be “changed”.
Labour activists are going to have a tough time selling a programme like that on the doorstep…