So, the Labour Party pledge a positive campaign

Oh look, the Labour Party is pledging not to get personal during the election campaign.

From the BBC:

Labour has vowed not to feature Prime Minister David Cameron on billboards ahead of the general election.

The party said it would focus on issues rather than personalities. and not use negative personal campaigning.

Its election strategist Douglas Alexander said the Conservatives were preparing to spread “fear and smear”.

This is in response to poorly photo-shopped Conservative posters of Ed Miliband costing up to Alex Salmond.

It’s always nice to see a pledge of positive campaigning, even if it does come from masters of the dark arts of the real, nasty, personal stuff. I mean, could this possibly be the same Labour Party who, just 9 months ago, devoted an entire Party Election Broadcast to doing a hatchet job on Nick Clegg? “The un-credible shrinking man” they called it. Stephen Tall gave a run down of the plot at the time:

Titled The Un-credible Shrinking Man it mocks Nick Clegg as a deluded patsy of the posho Tories. He starts off being offered a biscuit and ends up being chased across the cabinet table by a big cat. Because he’s shrunk, y’see. And naked. I’m not sure I’m doing its nuanced subtlety justice. It’s sort-of funny, at least if you enjoy laughing at one-dimensional caricatures which fit your pre-existing bias – a bit like a sketch for Radio 4’s The Now Show. You can watch it for yourselves here.

At the time of writing, it’s still up on the Labour Party’s You Tube Channel like they’re proud of it.

It could be that they have suddenly found some ethics and sense of fair play, but it’s more likely because they are feeling the effects of their leader being mocked for everything from the way he talks to people in the street to the way he eats a bacon sandwich and are trying to grab some moral high ground. I will be very surprised if Labour give up on the nasty stuff. I spent long enough round them in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to know what they can be like. There was one election where they portrayed three of my friends, good, hard-working, selfless local councillors, as the Three Little Pigs.

They have set out their stall, now, though. If anyone finds any examples of any unpleasant, personalised campaigning from them, please let us know.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • they spouting the near same as Tories Austerity

  • I don’t even know why we bother with voting in this country, it changes nothing lib/lab/con they’re all the same status qou establishment parties who despite the pretence of differences all believe that there is no alternative to unfettered capitalism where everything is privatised, where social housing on any meaningful scale is not allowed to exist, where services (especially those for the young) must be cut and cut and cut and where inequality must be allowed to continue to rise. When they’re all signed up to unfettered capitalism and believe there really is no alternative to neo-liberalism then essentially they’re all driving down the same path and the road will take us to the same destination regardless of who is behing the wheel…

    We need something like syriza here.

  • Stephen Hesketh 1st Feb '15 - 8:43pm

    Mr Wallace 1st Feb ’15 – 8:10pm

    And to you I would say that Liberal Democracy must not allowed to become an established part of such a consensus.

    The question is are you going to be part of the problem or the solution?

  • Thanks for the link Simon, the interviewer is a bit rude interrupting her but yeah, she didn’t come across well at all. Very badly in fact. She should let the MP do the debates.

    Despite coming across badly and getting stomped by an interviewer who comes across as a bit of a nasty rude bully himself she’s still getting some points across though; citizens income, tackling inequality, wealth tax, +50% tax for the very rich. Pro-immigration. Import controls to ‘re-localise’ the economy. Anti-nukes, anti-Nato, massive cuts to the military too by the sounds of it,

    Thing is though, if a Green Party with 1 MP who got very little support at the last election can be polling higher than a party of government with 57 MPs who got almost a quarter of the vote at the last election what does that say? Despite the bad presentation and letting Andrew constantly interrupt her more people joined her party than the Lib Dems. More people voted for them at the last European Election than the Lib Dems. As a committed member of the Liberal Democrats don’t you find that worrying and does that not make you want to ask some really searching questions about your own party?

  • paul barker 1st Feb '15 - 10:00pm

    Its more doublethink than hypocrisy, they really do see themselves as “a moral crusade” & paradoxically that means they can use any methods to win.

  • Tsar Nicolas 2nd Feb '15 - 12:05am

    Simon Shaw

    “the same sort of simplistic solutions as Syriza,”

    I have to say that the notion you have of starving people until the economy comes right is, er, simplistic, as well as wrong and cruel.

    But it has always been the case that folk with full bellies look on attempts to get rid of the problem of empty bellies as being simplistic.

  • Syriza might be simplistic, but they are offering people hope, which is more than the UK political parties are doing. There is a decent size of our population that despair with the big two parties and – with the possible exception of the SNP – have no faith in the smaller ones. I think it’s fairly obvious what will happen at the GE, the Tories will get the LibDems and UKIP on side and the Nationalist and Labour will form some type of partnership. The sad thing is that there will be very little difference to most people no matter who gets in, both sides will carry on the work started by Mrs Thatcher in the 80’s. How refreshing it would be to have a party willing to actually raise income tax – not just on the rich, but for everyone – so that we can actually afford first class public services. Am I the only one that actually looks back fondly on the days when the NHS had more nurses than budget/business managers and we were tought by teachers who had been to teacher training college and children weren’t tested twice a day as soon as they were potty trained. When did life become all about money and targets?

  • David Allen 2nd Feb '15 - 12:18am

    Sure, the Greens have a long way to go. At least they are trying. They are heading in the right direction. The Cleggites are going nowhere.

    Syriza are well ahead of both. They have genuinely impressive leadership. Yes, they also have desperate policies, which suit the desperate condition Greece is in. Of course their policies risk disaster. Their opponents’ policies were making a certainty of disaster.

    We don’t need to clone Syriza, because our situation is different. But we could do with their intelligence and their blazing determination to fight “The Prostitute State”.

  • Tsar Nicolas 2nd Feb '15 - 1:02am


    Paying for public services can be done not only by levying tax. for that matter, funding the deficit doesn’t have to be done through the bond market.

    This could all be done by getting the Bank of England to pay for it by a stroke of a pen, or a keyboard. But it can be done. Maybe it can’t be done forever, but it helped fund this country through two world wars.

    Now many say that this has been outlawed by the Maastricht Treaty – but if something is impossible it cannot be outlawed. Would anyone pass a law forbidding humans to fly merely by the flapping of their arms? The alleged prohibition by Maastricht confirms that public services and deficits can be funded by using the inherent credit creation powers of the bank of England.

    Of course, this idea will not please the bankers or their friends in political parties. How can they profit?

  • Alex Sabine 2nd Feb '15 - 4:42am

    @ Tsar Nicolas
    “The alleged prohibition by Maastricht confirms that public services and deficits can be funded by using the inherent credit creation powers of the Bank of England.”

    What a bizarre argument. I don’t think anyone is saying that it is impossible to fund deficits with printed money. Clearly it is perfectly possible and has been done. It’s just that experience suggests that countries that get into this habit wind up with hyper-inflation and economic meltdown.

    Monetising the deficit as a routine means of funding expenditure, as an alternative to raising tax revenue or borrowing from the markets, and with no intention of withdrawing the extra liquidity at a later date, is ‘Mugabeonomics’ of the type Vince Cable warned about (one of his many warnings) when QE came onto the scene in 2009.

    By contrast, the Bank of England states that: “The purpose of Quantitative Easing is to boost the money supply through large-scale asset purchases and, in doing so, to bring about a level of nominal demand consistent with meeting the inflation target in the medium term.”

    Cynics will say the difference between using QE as an act of monetary policy (as described by the Bank) and using QE as an act of fiscal policy – a means of funding government deficits – is in the eye of the beholder… It has certainly made it much easier for the British government to finance the huge amount of debt it has issued over the past 6 years at low yields.

    And of course boosting asset prices, including those of government bonds, was one of the channels through which QE was always intended to boost demand, so the low gilt yields (inversely related to prices) were not just a lucky by-product but part of the plan.

    If anything this convenient overlap of objectives/effects makes the operational independence of the Bank even more important, especially during the exit phase from QE.

  • David Allen
    You are completely right. The Greens will head in the direction og Greece but I don’t want to live in a bankrupt country.It will take more years to emerge from the financial crisis of 2008 but east Asia has from its crisis of 1997.
    Sky Pie will not do it it even if it is vegetarian.

  • the direction OF Greece

  • I will translate-Labour is going to be the nastiest ever.

  • Tsar Nicolas 2nd Feb '15 - 7:48am

    Alex Sabine,

    What a bizarre argument. I don’t think anyone is saying that it is impossible to fund deficits with printed money. Clearly it is perfectly possible and has been done. It’s just that experience suggests that countries that get into this habit wind up with hyper-inflation and economic meltdown.

    The BoE has been doing this since 2009 with respect to the banking system. It is called Quantitative Easing.

    Where’s the hyper-inflation? It is a figment of your imagination. We have plenty fo signs of deflation though.

  • Tsar Nicolas 2nd Feb '15 - 7:50am

    I meant to put that first paragraph of my previous post in quotation marks.

  • Interesting discussion of politics in Greece has developed in this thread, BUT —

    Going back to Caron’s original article and UK politics — if Labour or anyone calls for less ‘name calling’ and media distortion and more discussion of the politics of the election my guess is that Liberal Democrats should grab the offer with both hands.

    It my not be a genuine offer. But if it is genuinethen it is not a good idea to go on about “bacon sandwich” or Labour’s past crimes.

    I fear this election may already be the “bacon sandwich” election. For Liberalism there is an obvious danger if we let the Media Barons and the forces of darkness dictate the daily news agenda. If this happens we will lose out.

    If democracy is important to us we should not fall into the trap of mouthing media distortions and right-wing slogans. We should learn the lesson from May 2014 when some idiot at the top of theparty thought it would be a good idea to base our party’s national election media briefing on the collected works of The Daily Mail and The Tax Dodgers Alliance.

    Meanshile we seemed to have dropped further in the polls —

    Labour takes narrow lead over Tories as Lib Dems sink to 5%

    Clegg’s party gets worst rating in any poll since 2010, while Tories go up four points to 32% and Labour stands its ground at 33%
    In the latest poll Labour is unchanged compared with a fortnight ago on 33%, while the Conservatives are up four points to 32%. Ukip is down two points on 18%, the Greens unchanged on 6%, the Lib Dems down two points on 5% and the SNP is unchanged on 5%.

  • Tsar Nicolas 2nd Feb '15 - 8:29am

    Alex sabine,

    I just read the rest of your post and it doesn’t hold water.

    What you are saying is that money printing is fine if the beneficiaries are the banks, but will lead to hyper-inflation if done to benefit anyone else.

    So-called asset purchases are a farud. end of. They are basically arrangements whereby a commercial bank gives a piece of paper saying something like “X owes us a Trillion quid” in return for a large amount of cash which is then not loaned out to anybody but is invested on the stock market or riskier activities. Ever wondered why the FTSE and Dow Jones keep on going up? Look no further than QE.

    I suggest that £275 billion be invested in getting the real, productive economy working. The Highways Agency could hand the BoE a piece of paper saying “I owe the bank of England £35 billion,” and the Welsh Government in Cardiff could do something similar. The newly employed would earn a decent wage and start paying taxes which would have a beneficial effect on the wider economy.

  • “If anyone finds any examples of any unpleasant, personalised campaigning from them, please let us know.”

    I found an example of Labour MP TomWatson refusing to go down the route of unpleasant, personalised campaigning.
    He was being interviewed on the Sunday Politics.
    Andrew Neil tried to get him to say something unpleasant about the conservative Alan Mllburn. Tom Watson was positive and constructive and said he wanted to speak about what Labour was putting to the voters.

    In the same programme Chukka Ummuna the Labour MP and Vince Cable MP took part in a joint interview. They both expressed quite a measure of agreement and positive comments about shared policies. Nothing unpleasant or personalised. They did not agree on everything but were able to avoid dipping into the Norman Tebbit Lexicon of Abuse, which seems to be on loan to David Cameron each Wednesday when he prepares for Prime Minister’s Question Time.

  • SIMON BANKS 2nd Feb '15 - 10:52am

    Not meant as criticism of Mr Wallace, but I’m sorry this thread has turned into a series of exchanges on his views. It started as a post on Labour pledging not to get personal, when they get personal all the time.

    It will be nice if the don’t get personal on their posters. Ed Miliband may be realising that people in the U.K. tend to vote for a credible government and Labour is well short of sealing the deal on that. In 1997 Labour came across like a confident government expecting re-election and talking long if a bit vague, while the Tories seemed like a desperate opposition scuffling around for anything that might turn people off their opponents, instead of talking about their achievements and plans. Oh, and the Liberal Democrats seemed to have vision.

    My guess is that the national Labour campaign from now on will be relatively positive. Locally, of course, they’ll often get nasty under the radar. They contain some decent people, but they haven’t really changed since a Waltham Forest candidate was sent to prison (and debarred as a councillor) for promoting the belief in an election campaign that a gay Liberal Democrat councillor was a paedophile. When I was there the under the counter message – to Black voters only of course – was that we were racists.

  • I know Caron’s got to find ways of bashing opposition parties as often as she can, but sometimes her ‘Labour are so nasty’ stance is just rather silly.

    There have been many examples of Liberal Democrats using negative tactics, Simon Hughes infamous campaign being just one.

    ‘We Liberals are so nice’….mmmm, pull the other one.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “When people actually come to vote I confidently expect the Lib Dems to end up with at least 10 times as many MPs as the Greens. Just as there are in excess of 10 times as many Lib Dem as Green councillors.”

    Ahhhhh reaping the rewards of FPTP; what irony!

  • It may have been a bit naughty, but I’ve just watched the “un-credible shrinking man” again and it is a very effective video.
    It was watched by at least a 120,000 on you tube and most viewers seem to think it was great. If Labour don’t use it during their campaign they must be crazy.

  • Squirrel Nutkin 2nd Feb '15 - 2:48pm

    I wouldn’t want to interrupt John Tilley’s Private Fraser impressions, but “… the conservative Alan Milburn”? Would it not be helpful to political debate to make clear that he is technically “… the Labour politician Alan Milburn”? Even if he has spent much of the last two decades proving how small-c conservative the labour movement can be.

  • Ruth Bright 2nd Feb '15 - 2:56pm

    PBBrown – bring up as much ancient history as you like you will have a hard job convincing those of us who have seen them operate on the ground of the innate goodness of Southwark Labour and their gentlemanly tactics!

  • PBBrown
    “John O’Grady (Southwark Council leader, who was promoted as the ‘Real Bermondsey’ Labour candidacy by the previous MP, Bob Mellish) was filmed touring the constituency on the back of a horse and cart, singing a song which referred to Tatchell “wearing his trousers back to front”.
    Don’t forget the Daily Mirror headline in the early 1950s if you wish to go back to past. The mentality has not changed that much.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Feb '15 - 4:24pm

    @Caron “If anyone finds any examples of any unpleasant, personalised campaigning from them, please let us know.”
    Are you sure you want to go there?
    I’d forgotten all about the Un-Credible Shrinking Man, but your link prompted me to have another look and a chuckle. Then while I was at it I googled Clegg’s “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so so sorry” video and then the brilliant “Cameron’s Conference Rap” by Cassetteboy. I’m much more cheerful than I was ten minutes ago – thanks for that – but I can’t help but think that it might be best to ignore negative campaigning (or challenge it fiercely if it is factually incorrect) rather than simply draw more attention to it.

  • Squirrel Nutkin 2nd Feb ’15 – 2:48pm

    Don’t panic, Squirrel, just don’t panic! Or was that Corporal Jones?

    I think the real Labour politician Kevin Barron MP has got the measure of Mr Milburn.
    I cannot remember the exact words but it was something along the lines of — He is not a Labour Grandee, he is a has-been.
    Someone who is now out of the spotlight and so is seeking attention, trying to remember past glories.
    Unfortunately nobody can remember any past glories from his time in government; In fact he was not that good when he was in office and he is even less good now. —
    This description was not nasty or unpleasant in my view, simply fair comment.

    I agree with all those who comment here about both Labour and Conservative people being unpleasant in the past. Indeed here in Kingston they have a decades long history of cooperating with each other in coordinated attacks on Liberals. I am not blind to realities.

    However, if at national level at least the Labour leadership says they will not get involved in personalised ‘attack ads’ I think we should say thank you and do the same.
    It is counter-productive to engage in this sort of thing because we will always be out-gunned by the Tory Press and their prominent friends (even those who are Italian, live in Monaco and shift an ostensibly UK company to Switzerland to avoid paying a single penny in tax in the UK).

  • JohnTilley

    “if at national level at least the Labour leadership says they will not get involved in personalised ‘attack ads’ I think we should say thank you and do the same.”

    Odd to find my self agreeing with you (though I know it won’t last) but if there is even a bit of a campaign where a positive Liberal message set out without mud slinging that would be a good start.

    That said I don’t see it lasting, then no response is required as the media will simply ask every Labour representative “didn’t you say you wouldn’t do this negative stuff?” There has been so little of a positive Liberal message set out that no time can be wasted doing anything else (I’m assuming there will be one).

  • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '15 - 12:32am

    JohnTilley: I agree that our politics would benefit from much less negative campaigning, especially when it takes the form of ad hominem attacks which are often cheap and nasty and say more about the people making them than their intended targets.

    For instance, I strongly disapproved of the Daily Mail’s attempt to discredit Ed Miliband and scaremonger about his designs for Britain via a character assassination of his father Ralph. Like (I’m sure) most fair-minded people, I thought ‘good on Ed’ for hitting back and defending his father against tabloid travesties. There are plenty of genuine reasons to fear a Miliband administration in my view, but to insinuate that he is some kind of malevolent fifth columnist who hates Britain and has a hidden agenda to trash the country is patently absurd.

    I dislike personal vilification, underhand tactics and petty point-scoring whoever is doing it. You refer to unpleasant Tories and Labour people in Kingston making “coordinated attacks on Liberals”. There are plenty of Tory and Labour councillors, parliamentary candidates and MPs who would attest that Lib Dems are perfectly capable of fighting dirty too. So perhaps it’s a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’… 

    Sadly I think there is little prospect of this general election being conducted in a civilised spirit. Rather than a clash of ideas, I fear we can expect another campaign in which the parties seek to dodge the tricky questions about how they will repair the public finances, stick to their pre-prepared ‘talking points’ and resort to the politics of personal destruction. If so, I suspect they will further alienate the public they are supposed to represent and cause cynicism about the political class to reach new highs. So I hope I’m wrong…

    – Regarding Alan Milburn, some of the politer names he gets called in Labour circles these days include ‘Tory collaborator’ (by John Prescott) and ‘Blairite retread’ (provenance unknown, but attributed to various trade union leaders and Diane Abbott). More neutral descriptions that suggest themselves include  ‘restless public service reformer’, ‘uber-Blairite’, ‘revisionist’… About the last term I would apply to him is ‘conservative’. The true conservatives in the Labour party (and beyond) are those who are in hoc to producer and professional interests which steadfastly defend the status quo in the organisation and running of our public services, in the complacent belief that they are the ‘envy of the world’ and that we have little to learn either from experimentation or from other countries’ experience.

  • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '15 - 1:42am

    Tsar Nicolas:

    1. By and large the assets the Bank of England has purchased have been government bonds. I thought that was the point you were making – that the Bank was writing out cheques to the Treasury. You then seem to suggest the Bank has been buying up risky corporate bonds. In fact it has bought only a small quantity of fairly low-risk commercial paper; the majority of the £375 billion (not £275 billion as you indicate) has been gilts.

    2. You are right that QE has (indeed was intended to) boost asset prices and thereby cushion the equity and housing markets following the crash. Given the big rise in valuations, there is a danger of incubating a new bubble – this is one of the risks of QE that has to be weighed against its advantages in supporting the economy in a period of weak demand.

    3. By boosting the stock market and house prices, QE has undoubtedly helped the owners of financial assets. But as the Bank says: “QE was not about giving money to banks. Rather, the policy was designed to help businesses raise finance without having to borrow from banks, and also to lower interest rates for all households and businesses.”

    4. The fact that QE as practised in the UK has not triggered inflation/currency debasement would tend to support the Bank’s statement that it uses it as a tool of monetary policy (interest rates being at the zero bound) rather than as an instrument of fiscal policy.

    The Bank’s express purpose was to use its expanded balance sheet to offset the contraction in commercial bank lending and thus stabilise the money supply and ward off deflation. If/when monetary growth becomes excessive and inflation takes off, the Bank can (and presumably will) sell its newly acquired bonds again. This will have to be carefully calibrated obviously, but the criterion will be monetary conditions rather than the government’s financing requirement.

    If QE was pushing overall monetary growth to a level that was clearly inflationary, and the Bank continued to buy up gilts to keep the government from having to raise taxes or cut spending, then your argument that QE was really outright debt monetisation would stack up. But since, as you point out, there is as yet no evidence of an inflationary problem, the Bank’s policy is perfectly consistent with its remit.

    The point is that overall monetary growth has still been weak despite QE, so it’s not surprising inflation is low. But were the money supply to take off then inflation and currency debasement would indeed be the result.

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