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Campaigning outside schools: the right way and the bad way

Does your election campaign involve targeting parents at the school gates? There’s a right way and a bad way to do this.

Elections have become increasingly data-driven in recent times. Make no mistake, this is a good thing. Successful campaigns have always been a mixture of art and science but in my view if you don’t have good information, you can’t run a good campaign.

That being said, there will be plenty of candidates (from both major and minor parties) running campaigns that are all about “visibility”. This can because there isn’t the manpower, money and/or software to do anything else. It means spending plenty of time irritating commuters at stations, delivering shed loads of national-copy leaflets and spamming everyone on social media. Posters sites are like candidate catnip.

It may also mean trying to engage with parents at school closing time.

When running the campaign in a marginal seat during the 2010 general election I was glad to be able to draw on the experience of a number of seasoned campaigners. The advice I was given by my Campaign Director, Peter Bellini, was very straight-forward: by all means have your candidate hand out flyers to parents waiting outside a school, but as soon as the first child comes out: leave. Suffice as to say, this was excellent advice and given that our leaflets were about education policy it was very successful.

Some people opt to go about things differently with, erm, mixed results. The Labour candidate in Enfield North has not impressed parents in this campaign by turning up with balloons to hand out to primary school children. I also don’t suppose it was impressive for one of her team to tell people who complained about this to “shut up”.

Right way/bad way. I recommend the former.


Non-dom #BallsUp reinforces "competence vs chaos" election theme

Ed Balls being interviewed on BBC Radio LeedsInteresting little info-graphic courtesy of the BBC here showing how effectively Conservatives took to social media yesterday to highlight Labour’s “balls up” of a policy announcement.

Labour’s surprise pledge to scrap “non-dom” status quickly unravelled after video footage emerged of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls saying in January that such a policy could actually cost the country revenue.

Despite Labour trying to claim that their new policy would “raise hundreds of millions of pounds”, the footage from an interview with a BBC Radio Leeds journalist clearly showed Mr Balls sounding cautious when asked about “the super rich” and the prospect of “closing that loophole of non-dom status so that we can tax these people properly”. He replied, “If you abolish the whole status, then probably it ends up costing Britain money”.

As Guido points out, Ed Balls clearly told Radio 5 Live yesterday morning Labour’s new policy on the non-dom status is to “change it, abolish it, and it will raise a lot of money”.

This disaster of a policy launch was (of course) dubbed a “balls up” with Twitter lapping up the appropriate hashtag between 11am and 1pm yesterday. The Conservatives’ election poster went viral.

The impact of social media (like Facebook) and digital broadcast media (Twitter, Instagram) is often overplayed, but this is a great example of being used extremely effectively.

The beauty of all this is that what should have been an announcement that played into Labour’s key themes (of “making the rich pay” and that the Tories are the party of the rich) has ended up envoking the Conservatives’ central frame: competence vs chaos.

 28 days to go.