Billboards back off from hard messages

June 8, 2001

Public apathy about the general election left the main political parties struggling to find a memorable message to display on advertising billboards, Mark Garnett, an academic political pundit, said this week.

The parties have shied away from posters that carry strong electioneering slogans in case they turn off people who are fed up with the election, according to Dr Garnett, politics lecturer at Leicester University.

Dr Garnett, who is conducting research for a book on the Tories since 1997, said this factor was the reason that the most memorable advertisement of the election campaign was Labour's "remember to vote" poster.

"The parties all book their billboard spaces well in advance of the election. But this time it is almost as if they are just going through the motions of filling those spaces," he said.

There was a fear among the party election camps that overtly political posters that were effective in the past such as the Tories' "Labour's not working" campaign in 1979, might actually backfire, Dr Garnett said.

"It is also part and parcel of the ineffectiveness of the Tory campaign this election. The fact that they do not really think they can win means they are unsure what issues to campaign on," he said.

Dr Garnett believed public apathy was not just down to the lack of an effective opposition, but also due to disillusionment among voters about politics in general.

"People feel they cannot make a difference when there is little to choose between the parties and it seems the politicians are not listening.

"Politicians are trapped in a world of spin and the rest of us are just peering in," he said.

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