Negative or Positive?
Next Left has an interesting post about whether Tory knives will now be out for the Liberal Democrats. His conclusion, I suspect, will prove to be broadly correct:
My guess is that, with the pressure very much on the Tory camp, Coulson will prevail – and that the Conservatives will attack the LibDems hard over immigration, defence, crime and tax.
You should also add Europe into the mix. Why? Because those are the issues on which the Liberal Democrats are most likely to have unpalatable views on for people who would otherwise vote Conservative so in those LD>CON marginal seats the hope will be that exposure and attack will make switching voters think twice and some others return to the fold. No harm is in it; it makes sense for the Conservatives to do this from their own perspective and it’s not, strictly speaking, negative. I would say negative campaigning (the unacceptable and ineffective variety) is mainly personal attacks or attacks based on a candidates or leaders character not their policies or stated views.
Pointing out the shortcomings of your opponents policies is stock-in-trade for politics and if, and only *if*, accompanied with a positive pitch of your not only desireable and effective. I don’t like the repeated disavowals of ‘negative’ campaigning because it’s an open secret that all parties put forward negative messages about their opponents for good reason, if done right they work. What is more, a certain amount of negativity, of critique and criticism is a good and healthy thing; it encourages debate and scrutiny.
The electorate is neither stupid nor ignorant and they know this and what puts them off is not the negativity per se but the attempted sleight of hand pretending it isn’t happening. They are aspirational and do, wrongly, believe politics and politicians should be somehow be morally better (the other source of backlash against negativity in politics) but when it comes down to brass tacks the vast majority are realistic and will consider a negative message that resonates. Of course, much like anything it is a question of balance and there is such a thing as going too far which does cast the originator of the offending message in a bad light and, supposedly, gives politics a bad name. However, the counter-position between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ campaigning is largely a false one intended to make the person articulating it, in this case Mr Cameron, look better than they actually are.