EDITORIAL: Campaign tactics are well underway

Despite reports that the Mandelson factor has thrown Labour's election campaigning grid out of kilter, news that the Government has already begun covert campaigning in the regions is a pretty strong indicator that a general election is looming over the horizon.

Despite reports that the Mandelson factor has thrown Labour's election campaigning grid out of kilter, news that the Government has already begun covert campaigning in the regions is a pretty strong indicator that a general election is looming over the horizon.

Given Mandelson's crusading stance, the choice to go early to the polls is a curious one. In fact the lack of rumours from Number 10 of a possible postponement and the lack of media speculation of any attempt to play it to the wire, are uncharacteristic.

PRWeek is placing its bets on the country going to the polls in the spring, with the launch of 'Election 2001', a series of features examining the whole gamut of communications challenges and issues to be faced by all parties; with an ongoing commentary by our panel of seasoned campaigning pundits.

The current question seems to be whether the country will go to the polls even earlier than expected on 5 April, with Labour seeking to capitalise on its current 17 point lead and steal any thunder from the Tories by calling an election during the party conference in the first week of March.

As the 'architect of New Labour' steps up his campaign for vindication, such an option must be appealing, not least to simply get the election in the bag before Mandy does his worst.

However, 3 May remains the favourite, coinciding with county council elections. The biggest communications challenge for Labour is still going to be overcoming voter apathy and low turnout, but local councillors campaigning on their own behalf, particularly in those constituences most sceptical of New Labour, is likely to increase turnout by default. And this has got to be too good an opportunity to pass up.



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