General Election Top and Flops: dementia tax, Labour leak, Abbott number blunder

The run-in to 8 June has seen its fair share of missteps, gaffes and the occasional PR gem. PRWeek outlines the episodes from May that won our hearts and minds, and those that turned our stomachs.

Counting down: Has Diane Abbott been the biggest election flop so far? (©Jason via Flickr)
Counting down: Has Diane Abbott been the biggest election flop so far? (©Jason via Flickr)

Tops

Loose lips sink ships?

If the leak of Labour's manifesto, several days ahead of the planned launch, really was a malicious act then it spectacularly backfired because the party enjoyed more than 24 hours of wall-to-wall media coverage of its policy platform and enjoyed a poll bounce as a result. If the leak was in fact a calculated move, the only thing that didn’t go according to plan was Jeremy Corbyn’s car running over a BBC cameraman’s foot during the media melee.


Also see: Why are car crash political interviews on the rise?


The incredible shrinking logo

Having decided to make the election campaign about leadership, the electorate could have been forgiven for thinking they were only voting for Theresa May and not her party. May has taken the cult of the leader to a new level, fronting the entire campaign, as the Conservative logo at her husting events gets seemingly smaller with each appearance.

Making smoke signals

The Lib Dems’ stance on legalising and regulating the supply of cannabis for recreational use has been in place for more than a decade. But during this campaign, it felt like a policy whose time had finally come; with increasing moves towards a regulation model in the US, as well as a powerful advocate for the policy writing in a British newspaper about his son’s recent suicide as result of using high-strength ‘skunk’ and how legalisation might have saved him.

Flops

‘Dementia tax’ u-turn

In arguably the biggest campaign blunder to date, the Tories altered a controversial pledge that would have seen some pensioners contribute more to the cost of their social care - Theresa May promised an "absolute limit" on the amount people will pay. May was accused of misleading voters through the "u-turn" – The Independent described it as a "study in incompetence". May’s insistence that "nothing has changed" had more than a whiff of spin; perhaps a better tactic would have been to admit a mistake was made and lessons had been learned. Polls conducted in the few days after the incident suggested the Conservatives’ lead over Labour had reduced.

Abbott’s number blunder

Several senior politicians, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, have struggled with numbers during media appearances in the campaign - more recent Jeremy Corbyn struggled over the cost of Labour's childcare policy in a Woman's Hour interview. But the party’s shadow health secretary’s numerical meltdown was the most cringe-worthy, and potentially most damaging. In a widely publicised LBC interview to discuss Labour’s plan to recruit 10,000 extra police officers, Diane Abbott initially put the cost at £300,000. Pressed on the numbers, a flustered Abbott corrected herself, saying it would be about £80m. She was told that would mean paying officers just £8,000 per year, and painful deliberation followed. If Labour wanted to appear a competent guardian of the public purse, this was some misstep.

Tim who?

Tim Farron’s campaign didn’t start well, with the Liberal Democrat leader and devout Christian facing accusations of homophobia by refusing to say whether he thinks gay sex is a sin (he later said it was not). It’s potentially damaging, giving the party’s coveting of the ‘progressive’ vote. Since then, the Lib Dem’s campaigning has failed to cut through (save for the cannabis announcement, above) - support for the party has remained broadly static in polls. Will MHP MD James Gurling, who is chairing the Lib Dem campaign, help orchestrate a late swing for the yellow party?

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