Behavioural politics, day 19 of 30

Saturday is often a quiet day in the campaign, and both Nick Clegg (day off) and David Cameron (sister's wedding) were spending time with their families today.

Gordon Brown wasn't - instead, he spent it with an Elvis impersonator in a somewhat ill-judged campaign stunt.

Labour seems to be showing a bit of desperation in its strategy at the moment. I'm all in favour of lots of activity - the more you expose yourself to voters, the more chance one of your messages will resonate. It's the salami-slicing principle again. But there are two caveats to this:

  • The first is that the UK's balanced coverage laws mean that even if Labour holds five times more campaign events than the Tories, they have to get the same amount of TV and radio coverage. So it may be better to have a small number of events with a highly focused, controlled message than dozens of half-hearted low-quality promotions. This argument doesn't apply to newspaper coverage, and it could be a successful strategy to run literally thousands of small-scale campaign events with Cabinet ministers - if each can gather one or two hundred attendees, it might be possible to influence enough people to swing the election. Perhaps this is happening and the national media just aren't noticing. Hmm.
  • The other is that too much activity runs the risk of showing a lack of confidence. And confidence, for whatever reason, creates trust. It can only be good for Nick Clegg to show sufficient confidence in his prospects to take the day off, and David Cameron gets to put the election in perspective, showing that his family is more important.
Labour does have a chance of pressuring the papers and TV into covering policy a little more, and process and style a little less. But it's running out of time.

Ratings: Liberal Democrat 8/10, Conservative 7/10, Labour 5/10.


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