Editorial: Reputations can sway the voter

After a lengthy phoney war and with an extended campaign to come, this election looks set to be dominated by spin. With acres of newsprint and hours of election broadcasting yawning ahead, the ability to fill it with anything of substance will diminish correspondingly. Already the airwaves and newspapers are alive not with heated policy discussion, but with speculation about TV debates, the leaders’ wives’ fashion sense, and, most self indulgently of all, news about which newspapers are supporting whom.

After a lengthy phoney war and with an extended campaign to come,

this election looks set to be dominated by spin. With acres of newsprint

and hours of election broadcasting yawning ahead, the ability to fill it

with anything of substance will diminish correspondingly. Already the

airwaves and newspapers are alive not with heated policy discussion, but

with speculation about TV debates, the leaders’ wives’ fashion sense,

and, most self indulgently of all, news about which newspapers are

supporting whom.



In the absence of substance, political editors will turn to discussing

the spin instead of the politics - a subject of undying fascination to

the media (because it places them at the centre of events) but of little

interest to anyone outside the enclaves of Westminster, Wapping and

Canary Wharf.



PR has a greater role to play, however. On so many issues, one could

hardly slide a page of a manifesto between the two main parties. In this

election, people will vote on the same issues they always have done -

economics, health, crime, and so on. The spin doctors’ toughest task

will be to keep attention focused on those issues (and away from

themselves), and establish a genuine point of difference in the voters’

minds.



For political parties are now subject to the same marketing certainty as

the commercial world - that when rival products become indistinguishable

in price, quality and function all that is left to differentiate them is

their reputation. Which is where the spin doctors will truly earn their

keep.



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