Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rapid Rebuttals Can Be Pain In The Butt

April 1 has come in with a joke, a splash, a smear and a bang and a rapid rebuttal that backfired. And there's still a few days to go before the election call.

Make one mistake in today's world of fast-paced politics and you fall flat on your face. The US style quick-fire election campaigning is here to stay.

But that doesn't suit some political commentators. Bogged down with the detail, the BBC's Nick Robinson is a case in point, pandering to the current crop of political narratives. But voters don't give a monkeys.

Out in the real world polls show the public is worried about jobs, the debt-ridden economy and the vexed issue of immigration. But all they are getting is spin, fiddled figures and dodgy opinion polls with Kellner's YouGov singled out for attack.

And what will stick in voters minds if anything today is the Grauniad's splendid April 1 spoof campaign ad (top). It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you think. And it puts paid to the wet brigade's wimp that attack posters don't work.

Today's tit-for-tat 'jobs tax' spat is still doing the rounds, sparked off by a splash in the Torygraph, with 23 big bosses backing Tory NI cuts to protect jobs. All in the time span of one miserable morning. Leading the New Labour attack dog pack is Mandy, fronting the well-honed rapid rebuttal unit and the public face of Party's election campaign.

But with 24 hour rolling news and rapid rebuttal come mistakes. Quick decisions have to be made, on the hoof, sent out by BlackBerry.

There's a rolling news cycle out there just waiting for someone to screw up. Make a wrong call and you're dead meat.

And so it came to pass, with the smear tactic that big bosses were in the pockets of Tories and "deceived" into backing Tory plans. Angry bosses hit back saying such claims were “patronising”. Wrong call Mandy. It's the quality of the attack lines which count, particularly when you attack powerful and influential business leaders.

And why bother with such an attack? Play it down. Tough times need tough decisions from a tough government and all that.

But old dirty tricks die hard. New Labour smears attacked the messenger and scored an own goal.

Masterful Mandy may be second to none when it comes to the acidic put down. But this is Mandy, prince of darkness and viper-in-chief, not some two-bit empty talking suit.

Policies and personalities sure but the election is boiling down to trust and honesty. Something the Orange Party has banged on about time and again.

The statistics watchdog wrapping Porkie Brown's knuckles over misleading immigration figures will linger in voters minds. Why would anyone believe Mandy or Porkie Brown?

Voters won't be taken in or taken for fools on April 1 or any other day. They'll tune in, turn on and turn off. The media class sport of regurgitating the current narratives pushed by whichever party is a real turn off, until a rebuttal goes spectacularly wrong, busting any credibility.

The days of Tories wobbles are over. Sharp suits and sharp lines are the order of the day. Tired old New Labour better get used to it.

The rising star of the government's 'media monitoring unit', director Clarence Mitchell, famous for the Madeline McCann campaign, is now behind the scenes at Tory HQ, after switching sides to give Tory spinners a hand.

All this frenzied action before Bottling Brown has even got round to naming the day and firing the starting gun of a short and snappy election campaign proper. For the Tories, things can only get better.

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