Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The politics of Dave

Have you seen Dave? Dave the Chameleon that is? I have and I'm slightly torn.

The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have worked themselves into a bit of a lather with calls of negative campaigning and questioning the idea of turning David Cameron, into a reptile while The Times wonders if this is not a new low for New Labour.

We've kind of been here before. With the wildlife theme that is. I'm not totally sure who is coming up with these ideas, but last time we had former Tory leader Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin as flying pigs. Howard and Letwin are Jewish and that advertising idea quickly, and rightly so, blew up in Labour's face.

Not that Labour started it. Negative campaigning is something that the Tories have done masterfully well with some of the most classic ads of the last three decades (the Saatchi brother's "Labour isn't Working" and "Demon Eyes" for two) are the work of that party.

So in one sense to claim that this is a new low or the start of some new era of negative campaigning is sheer hokum, pure and simple.

I admit I laughed out loud at the Dave party political ad, not only is it well done it pokes fun where there is fun to be poked. Dave the Chameleon in his boater hat for those Eton and Oxford days.

Did you laugh? I can't be the only one. I laughed again at Dave the PR flack quaffing champagne and rabitting away on his 1980s mobile brick of a phone while not snorting Class A drugs in the back of his super stretch limousine. I laughed at all of that.

The problem is that when the laughing is over it turns out that the ad, which is going to be part of a longer campaign (there's an inane Dave Blog to read as well), has no substance. It has nothing that speaks to those wavering Labour or undecided voters.

What it does do is play brilliantly to Labour's heartland, to its hardcore voters, who already know that Dave will change his clothes to suit the colour of your doorstep. Labour voters already know that Dave has declared himself to be the new Blair.

Not only that they know that Dave is greener than the Green Party because he has a pushbike and that he's more liberal than the Liberals. Yes Dave is all things to all voters. He's every Dave. He's a Chameleon. Genius idea. That's where it should have stopped as Labour got working on a campaign idea that spoke volumes about what Labour has done in office, its achievements, and its future plans.

Many people believe that there is a good story to be told, about health and education, because for as slick as Dave the chameleon is, it doesn't tell that story and it's not really something that people will be discussing on the doorstep, which as the crucial, and possibly bruising, May elections creep near is what should count.


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