Public weary of continuous campaigning

June 1, 2001

Academics identify key issues in the upcoming general election.

General election campaigns used to be short and sharp. Campaigning was concentrated into a three to four-week period, after which the electorate could forget about politics for a while and leave politicians to get on with their business. We have entered an era of more or less continuous campaigning. One indicator is the huge increase in the number of political advisers employed in government departments.

Consequences include endless launches and re-launches of politicians and policies and a greater concern with media management than with keeping the House of Commons informed. The professionalisation has extended into manifestos - they are glossy and glib, designed to catch eyes and provide soundbites rather than a coherent set of policies.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that voters can be mobilised in the run-up to elections. What is certain is that continuous campaigning has become wearisome even for politics junkies. For ordinary punters it must be a real turn-off.

David Denver, professor of politics, Lancaster University.

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