Negative = Bad?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007 @ 5:00PM

Every political party keeps a leaflet bank in their campaign office so that they can scrutinise the literature of the opposition. Mine is less of a bank and more of a pinboard 3 layers deep of party propaganda. But there’s one leaflet on this wall which has really, really got under my skin and that’s the latest Lib Dem leaflet in North & Leith.

Here’s my Top 5 issues with the Lib Dem leaflet:

1) It’s published on yellow paper which is notoriously difficult to recycle.
2) The graph on their leaflet portraying the predictable two horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems is based on figures from the General election rather than the last Scottish parliament where the Lib Dems actually came 4th in the North & Leith constituency. Rather misleading wouldn’t you say…
3) …The reverse of the graph says “Don’t be fooled by Labour’s misleading leaflets!”
4) The tagline is “Liberal democrats are fighting a positive local campaign. We refuse to copy Labour’s negative campaign tactics.”
5) If that wasn’t funny enough… the leaflet then slags off Labour a total of 4 times on the reverse page! Total hypocrisy.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’m keen to talk about ‘negative campaigning’ generally. Naturally, I think every party has a duty first and foremost to communicate their positive vision for our country. That in my opinion, is what a manifesto is for. Each party has printed its manifesto now, and all are available to download from their respective websites.

Here’s a link to each for your interest:

Labour

SNP

Lib Dems

Scottish Conservatives

Greens

SSP

Solidarity

I’ve read each and every manifesto, word for word – admittedly through the necessity of my day job – and all of them set out their own stall.

Beyond manifestos however, I think politics broadly and elections more specifically are about debate. Debating ideas, policies and principles. To do that effectively you simply have to say why your party’s ideas are better, more effective or more trustworthy than the rest.

So when I print a leaflet that talks about the Lib Dems flip flopping on schools, recycling or congestion charging, I’m communicating the fact that voters should be careful because the Lib Dems occasionally say one thing on a leaflet and do another in the council chamber.

I think that’s a perfectly legitimate thing to do, I wont apologise for it and I wont criticise any other party for doing the same.

We might not like it, but “Negative campaigning” enhances a healthy debate. Ultimately though, it’s for the voter to decide which party/person it thinks best represents their ideals for the future of Scotland.

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Categories: Environment & Transport, Lib Dems, Scottish Parliament Election 2007

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