How are you enjoying the UK General Election 2019 so far? Before you tune out, turn off or drop your device into a bowl of cold water at the very question, bear with me for a moment. If nothing else this election has shown, yet again, how we are suffering a crisis of genuineness in our times.
How did we get to this stage? It’s a question that political commentators have been wrestling with and election spectators have been lamenting if conversations over the past few weeks have been anything to go by. I have heard the expression ‘best of a bad bunch’ so many times that I have been waiting for Richard Pryor to pop up to implore a vote for ‘none of the above‘.
I have written before about the power of being genuine. Unfortunately, this current bout of election fever has thrown up few, if any, positive illustrations to speak of, so let’s consider the opposite of best practice when it comes to engaging your audience. Yes your toes will probably start to curl, but all I can say is read, weep and take home a lesson or two in how not to go about your business or politics!
Reliance on statistics
Lies, damned lies and election statistics is a good (as in bad) place to start. Both Conservative and Labour have struggled to convince the electorate that their intentions are genuine when trundling out questionable manifesto promises backed by equally questionable statistics.
Nicky Morgan blazed a trail with her entry into the election special ‘car crash interview’ category. The Culture Secretary was caught looking like a rabbit in the headlights as the Good Morning Britain team dismantled the Conservative pledge to provide 50,000 new nurses (*19,000 existing ones included).
There was a point in this election when the major parties decided the best way of flexing their green muscles was to plant trees. Lots of them. For a while it became like a playground game of brag. The Labour party ended up topping the bragging stakes by pledging so many trees it would require 200 being planted a minute… until 2040 (at which point the only wood apparently seen for said trees was the nose of the wooden puppet carved by Gepetto).
Too much information
In the era of fake news nobody is taking their facts for granted anymore. Just as the Google search has rid civvy street of outrageous claims and true stories that happened to friends of friends, politicians’ claims are under scrutiny like never before. Services to the public include Full Fact and the BBC’s Reality Check. Disservices to the public came in the form of Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office renaming its account factcheckUK for the Johnson/Corbyn debate.
Probably not that long ago, those behind the campaign scenes practising what Alastair Campbell once referred to as ‘the dark arts’ could get away with staging a political set up. Stage managed occasions do not work in this new environment of skepticism.
Such moments include Boris Johnson taking a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book to pose against a backdrop of police officers, Momentum posing fervent support wherever Mr Corbyn treads and Michael Gove attempting to blag his way onto the guest list for the Channel 4 climate debate, fully mic’d up so he could share his ‘your name’s not on the list’ moment with the viewers at home.
While Mr Gove appeared to be fully in control of his microphone (if not his own sense of what being genuine means), then spare a thought for Tory candidate Lee Anderson whose poor grasp of mic craft has provided one of the more comical moments of the election so far.
By choice or bad advice he allowed the Daily Mail’s Michael Crick to follow him around as he canvassed the locals. The result is a not so much a car crash but a car + caravan crash, bang and wallop and fantastically illustrates how the only way to come across as being genuine is to actually be genuine. Do watch it in its entirety – make yourself a cup of tea as it is well worth the five minutes.
So whoever emerges as PM on Friday 13 December would do well to remember this as their audience is now watching their every move like never before…