by Atul Hatwal
Paralysing fear has infected every aspect of the parties’ campaigns.
Strategists fear the voters, so they stage tightly controlled events, away from the truculent public. Junior staffers fear any slight mishap that might make the news, so even the most minor decision is dictated by a safety first doctrine.
And Ed Miliband and David Cameron fear everything and anything, otherwise they would not accept the counsel of caution from their advisers which shackles all that they do.
The result is an arid campaign, a dismal parade of media moments contrived for broadcasters that lack the incident and passion to galvanise anybody but the already committed.
A news vacuum is developing. The manifesto launches commanded attention earlier in the week, but now what?
The front pages are already drifting away from the election. Soon, as is always the way in politics, this lacuna will be filled with the grumbles of worried candidates and plotting leadership contenders, taking aim at their leaders.
It doesn’t have to be this way. For the party bosses running the party campaigns, there is an alternative.
1992, which has already provided much of the template for this contest, also offers a lesson in how to fill that vacuum without the need to scramble out new half-baked policy announcements dreamt up the night before or to escalate the ferocity of personal attacks to shock a path into the news.
Imagine if one or more of the party leaders took a leaf out of John Major’s book and didn’t just do managed Q&As with pre-vetted, politically emasculated supporters, but actually went out to meet the British public on the high street, in the shopping centre and at the market.
If they went to where the public are, rather than hiding in a hall ringed with security, put down a soapbox, stood on it and spoke to real voters.
Jim Murphy is Scottish leader in no small part because of his one man campaign across Scotland in the independence referendum, speaking to the Scottish public from atop his Irn Bru crate.
There were baying nationalist mobs, protesters, eggs, but also, fabulous pictures for print and broadcast, personal guts and raw emotion.
The plaudits from journalists or every persuasion – right, left, nationalist and unionist – after the clip below was shared were extraordinary. It’s hard not admire Jim Murphy’s passion, resilience and commitment.