Finally the election campaigns are under way, at least for the Tories. Although no date has officially been set by Gordon Brown, it is widely accepted that May 6th will be the big day. And now, following a slight Labour revival, Cameron has decided to launch into the PR war with a blanket of posters plastered all over Britain. However far from encouraging the populace, Cameron has terrified Britons with his airbrushed visage. It has quickly become the favourite subject of ridicule in political editorials. A point of concern is what this poster might suggest about the attitude of the Tory party. If we look at Gordon Brown’s last-ditch attempt to save his government at the Labour Party Conference in 2008, he described himself as a ‘serious man for serious times’. Brown is not a smooth talker, his face is lined with the stresses of one of the toughest jobs a person can do, yet he gets the job done, admittedly with sporadic shortcomings. If Gordon Brown’s ‘serious man’ is what we need, then when will we need a man more concerned with looking like a teenager than his own policies?
In Cameron’s defence, British politics is slowly morphing into American politics, certainly in terms of the role of the media. The image a candidate presents to the press is becoming more and more significant; at this rate we will get celebrities endorsing certain politicians as they do in the US. Therefore it is only fair to argue that perhaps Brown is slightly behind the times, and Cameron slightly ahead of them. But, and it is quite a large but, whilst Obama did wheel out famous faces to endorse his campaign, he came with a clear cut and comprehensive set of policies that were specific, and significantly, they were also achievable. Cameron’s slogan is ‘I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’, which is a lovely idea in theory. But it is a catchphrase that sums up the Tories; it’s catchy but vague. Furthermore, it doesn’t set them up in direct opposition to Labour because clearly if it is possible, Labour will try and cut the deficit without cutting the NHS. Yet what people fail to understand is that the NHS might have to be cut because, guess what folks, we are in a recession and no one is immune. With national debt at the £100 billion mark, sacrifices are going to have to be made. Maybe it is unfair to be sceptical; perhaps the Tories will arrive with financial brilliance and stop the recession in its tracks. However, this is highly unlikely to be the case, namely because the man they have placed in potential charge of the economy is George Osborne, a man whose financial plans are widely accepted in the City to make no sense.
What of the Liberal Democrats? As this is being written the ‘Latest News’ section of their website is filled with articles glorifying the latest critique of both the Labour and Conservative parties by another brave Liberal politician. Again they are focusing on the other parties’ failings, rather than actual policies. At the top of the screen they have a rolling banner of policy headlines with four out of five of them containing the word ‘fair’; clearly we can expect a rather singular approach from Mr Clegg, still trying to capitalise on ill feeling towards the country’s elite for the recession. However, recently Nick Clegg has shown that despite his party’s lack of presence he at least is in touch with how the average parent feels, as demonstrated by his recent disagreement with the renowned parenting writer Gina Ford. Clegg criticised Ford’s parenting book, and in response she suggested that the Liberal Democrats might start looking for a new leader. However, many parents have come out in favour of Clegg, thanking him for having the bravery to criticise the established practice. Parenting techniques are irrelevant to the general election, but what this incident shows is that Clegg is an ordinary man with a job and a family. This is exactly how Cameron has tried to paint himself, with gimmicks like ‘Webcameron’. Despite this façade, Cameron will never escape from the fact that unlike the vast majority of us, he went to Eton then Oxford where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club. His attempt to show himself as an ordinary citizen is, if anything, patronising. He would be better to accept his elitist position and move on.
So what awaits in the future contest between the three men gunning to lead our country? We have Gordon Brown, a serious man, Nick Clegg, an ordinary man and we have David Cameron, an undoubtedly able yet confused politician. Will Labour accept their fate or will they mount an epic comeback? What’s certain is it’s going to be interesting. Watch this space.