The Tories’ internet cartoon shows us why the ban on TV spot ads must remain.

In the last few days, the Tories have shown us a cartoon with the worst of TV campaign tactics about the SNP and Alec Salmond. I’m no fan of the SNP, and I’m a supporter of the Union.  However, this internet spot ad, at 45 seconds reveals a lot about the Tories campaign techniques.  It’s straight out of the USA Political Consultants handbook.

In 1992, whilst lecturing and researching Political Image making at the University of Marie-Curie Sklodowska in Poland, I came across the work of Laurence Rees, in his TV series “We have ways of making you think” and his accompanying book, “Selling Politics.”  Rees argued that modern political propaganda techniques were descended from the Nazi propaganda of Josef Goebbels in Germany. Goebbels had stated that “In order for propaganda to be effective, it had to be entertaining.” Entertaining, and involving the politics of fear.

Fast forward to the 1960s and 30 second TV spot advertising was being developed.  Lyndon Johnson’s Daisy Cutter ad began playing on such fear: The Democrat contender Dukakis was destroyed by the Willie Horton ad in 1988.   First hand, I saw how these attack ads formed the frontline of a Senate campaign, when volunteering for Senator John Kerry in Massachusetts against the Republican Governor William Weld, in 1996.  Both Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into these ads.

This Tory cartoon is the latest descendant of such attack ads. Constrained by our Party Political Broadcast rules, the Conservative resort to the internet for their cartoon, desperate in this ultra-close election.

Many things are wrong with our democracy, but our restriction on TV advertising isn’t one of them. Liberal Democrats need to stand firm and protect this restriction. The alternative would be a tidal wave of negative 30 second spot ads, using propaganda playing on emotion rather than rational debate. All funded by vested interests with the biggest war chests.

No longer would it be 38 degrees, but instead it would be 38 seconds of spot advertising, repeated on the half hour, every half hour. Until it was drilled into your subconscious. Of course, that’s what the practitioners of these dark arts really want.

The UK deserves better. Better than the Conservative Party, who have already gone negative. Better than the politics of fear. Better than our broken two-party system.

Fortunately, we have better. We have better in the form of our positive message, such as the excellent campaign video that has been produced for Dorothy Thornhill in Watford.

As Tim Farron and others have previously said “If the Liberal Democrats didn’t exist, you’d have to invent them.”  That is true today – to defend our civil liberties, but also to reform the neo-democracy in which we live, with a powerful, positive message.

Enjoy the Tory cartoon – you’re meant to.  But don’t be taken in by it.

* Simon Foster is a lecturer in Politics and Economics, and has published 23 books on Politics, PSHE and Citizenship.

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13 Comments

  • So the LibDems favor censorship over free speech?

  • Robin Bennett 24th Mar '15 - 4:04pm

    The Nats are delighted and will be hoping for more of the same.

  • It is Alex, not Alec Salmond as on the top line.

  • As much as I hate the Tories that advert was awesome

  • Re-do the cartoon with Mr Farage returning from Brussels on the Eurostar.
    As he enters Britain from the Channel Tunnel have a welcome to Britain sign that includes EU immigration counter ticking ever upwards.

    Then Nigel enters Westminster and have him playing a tune while Mr Cameron dances around. Tune? Probably Jerusalem.

  • Philip Thomas 24th Mar '15 - 9:13pm

    @Robin Bennett
    Of course: the Nats and the Tories have a common goal for this election: deny Labour+Lib Dems a majority. This can be achieved by voting SNP in Scotland and Tory in England, and both parties are doing their best to encourage both those things.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Mar '15 - 9:17pm

    I wouldn’t mind a few more political ads in order to take the nation’s attention away from football and chocolate, or whatever TV adverts are mainly about these days.

    I’m not saying have a free for all, but a few more political ads might engage the public a bit more.

    I also don’t see why the Conservatives are only being slammed for negative ads – Labour have just launched an with made up NHS cuts.

    But you are right, the Dorothy Thornhill video, and the Simon Hughes one, were both very good.

  • Philip Thomas 24th Mar '15 - 10:01pm

    Hi James. The Labour party has ruled out a coalition with the SNP. The Conservative party has ruled out a coalition with the SNP. The SNP has said it will not enter into coalition with anyone.

    So just how stupid would we Liberal Democrats have to be if we went into the election on a platform of coalition with the SNP? It would be coalition between us and no one!

  • Simon Foster 24th Mar '15 - 10:12pm

    PBBrown: sorry, my bad.

    Locke: I don’t speak for the party. However, this politics lecturer believes that the ban on paid TV political advertising should stay. There’s too much big money in our neo-democracy anyway without making it worse..

    Rob: ,propaganda should entertain, I agree, it was good. That’s the problem.

    Cllr Beckett: exactly!

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