The PRWeek General Election Panel: Highs and lows of week three

The PRWeek General Election Panel draws together some of the best public affairs practitioners in the industry, from both sides of the political divide, to dissect the campaign as it unfolds between now and 8 June.

On the first working day after the Easter holidays, prime minister Theresa May fired the starting pistol on a seven-week campaign, counting down to a snap General Election on 8 June.

The announcement surprised fellow politicians, not to mention the electorate, given that May repeatedly said she would not call a General Election until the Fixed-term Parliaments Act demanded one in 2020.

But whether one considers this a cynical attempt by May to take advantage of favourable polls or a sensible measure designed to strengthen the government's hand during Brexit negotiations, the game is now on.

Our General Election Panel assesses the campaign highs and lows, the tops and flops, each week until Polling Day.

Stuart Thomson, head of public affairs, Bircham Dyson Bell

It is now apparent that however bad the General Election result is for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn will remain as leader. For how long though is less clear.

The party had the fig-leaf of the Mayoral election wins in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region but they could not disguise the poor showing elsewhere, even if things were not quite as bad as some had been expecting. UKIP may have been decimated but it is the Conservatives who have the real momentum.

The French presidential election result was used by both sides for electioneering purposes. For Labour and others, it showed that a progressive agenda is not dead. For the Conservatives, it was a further sign that a massive majority is needed to stand up against the EU.

With the manifestos being prepared, the Conservatives will beg, borrow and steal ideas to deliver the widest possible range of votes.

Ed Miliband's old promises of controls on energy bills is likely to accompany the continued, UKIP-inspired, commitment to a net migration figure. Labour will continue to focus on its anti-elite messages, particularly around tax (bombshell or not). Marx, though, may not receive a direct manifesto name-check.

Jo-ann Robertson, partner and deputy chief executive, Ketchum London

This General Election is the gift that keeps on giving. You could not describe any of the political parties as having a good campaign. In fact we have been faced with gaff after gaff.

Top of the flops this week is Jeremy Corbyn, who banned BuzzFeed from attending Labour events because they printed exactly what he said to them in an interview.

Second is Theresa May, whose sickly appearance on The One Show included her describing household chores as boys and girls tasks. When the most powerful woman in the country takes this view, what chance have the rest of us got?

It also appears that we are going back to the 90s with fox hunting once again getting the most bizarre attention. In 2017 is this really a defining issue for the British people? I don't think so. But the opposition is so weak that May can pretty much get away with anything right now.

And finally to that ongoing saga of the Labour Party splitting. The county is crying out for a new political movement. If someone has the ideas, the money, and the technology, this election could be seen as the moment British politics was forced to change forever.

Stephen Day, chief operating officer and managing director of public affairs, Burson-Marsteller UK

It is a received wisdom of our time that all of our politicians, regardless of party colour or affiliation are essentially the same, cut from the same cloth, saying the same things, and proposing broadly the same policy solutions.

This week Labour and the Conservatives seemed determined to prove this hypothesis by being the only people in the country to agree that the result on 8 June is going to be close.

Opinion polls, betting markets, the media and local election voters all seem to think otherwise and pointed to a potential Conservative landslide. However‎ according to the spokespeople of our two largest parties, the General Election remains in the balance.

Seeking to frame a message around the outcome of electoral contests is nothing new, but these local election results brought a whole new level of spin.

National media care little about local council contests so there is always a quest for their true meaning by journalists, and as a result frenzied expectation management by politicians. Labour therefore called not being wiped out in Wales a success, and the Conservatives declared that winning areas like the Labour-dominated Tees Valley was merely "encouraging".‎

Both parties have surpassed themselves in this endeavour to the point that at times the lines appeared to blur between them as both tried to spin what was essentially the same core message, albeit from opposite points of view.

In the film Clockwise John Cleese's character laments, "It's not the despair, I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand". It seems hope and despair for each party have been turned into exactly the same message for Election 2017.

Michelle DiLeo, head of public affairs, FleishmanHillard Fishburn

The sheer scale of the Tories' poll lead over Labour is creating a bizarre dynamic, which means the Tories have to persuade voters the election isn't in the bag, and Labour and the Lib Dems need to persuade voters that the Tories do indeed have it in the bag – only a vote for the Lib Dems or Labour can prevent the UK becoming a one party state.

So this week the Tory campaign has morphed into the longest GOTV (Get out the vote) effort of any election campaign, and evidence emerged of Lib Dem and Labour tactical manoeuvring in a bid to save some like-minded individuals.

Meanwhile, the local election results have intensified the sense that this campaign is actually Labour's long march into oblivion.

For the politically homeless, Macron's victory a year after starting a new party marked a bright spot on an otherwise stark horizon.

Nevermind, apparently only 15 per cent of the public have heard Theresa May's slogan, "strong and stable", which means those of us who have are going to hear it a whole lot more over the next week.

And, in homage to Matt Chorley (surely the funniest political journalist in the UK?), the manifestos still haven't been published. Obviously.


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