Labour to send out free vidoetapes in key seats

The Labour Party is to hand voters in key seats free video cassettes as part of the forthcoming election campaign, it emerged this week.

The Labour Party is to hand voters in key seats free video cassettes as part of the forthcoming election campaign, it emerged this week.

The party's Millbank headquarters is planning the exercise as a way of bypassing TV coverage, which it claims distorts core messages.

Party PR staff hope to repeat the success of tactics used in last month's Falkirk by-election in producing news-style videos of candidates in 60 constituencies targeted by strategists as must-keep seats.

Labour strategists believe the 60p each tape will cost to produce is an efficient way of targeting specific groups of voters, particularly as more than 85 per cent of homes have access to a video recorder.

In Falkirk, tapes were not sent to everyone, but were distributed tactically in areas where canvassing had indicated swing voters lived.

Scottish Labour had expected to lose control of the seat, but eventually returned Labour man Eric Joyce to Westminster.

Millbank now hopes to repeat that coup through the use of such videos.

While it is not the first time the distribution of free videos has been used as a campaigning tool - the late James Goldsmith tried the same stunt in the 1997 general election - the Labour version stands out for its non-polemical style.

The videos are the brainchild of John Braggins and Alan Olive, respectively head and assistant head of the party's by-election taskforce.

In Falkirk they were produced by a freelance film director, David McCowan-Hill, who makes Labour's party political broadcasts north of the border.

Former BBC political news head, Labour Party communications director and GPC strategic communications director, Joy Johnson said: 'Everyone talks of campaigning on the internet but in Falkirk low penetration meant it wasn't the web that made a difference but a five minute video landing on 10,000 doormats.

'By-elections are like political laboratories. The parties try techniques which are then assessed for effectiveness in general elections. The video was the key innovation in Falkirk.'

Although the videos are relatively cheap to produce, spending limits in general elections are more stringent than in by-elections.

Despite this, and candidates willing, the party intends to make use of free videos in many of the 150 seats it gained in 1997.

As Labour gears up for a likely 3 May election, all signs are that it will become the first party of government this century to hold all its by-election seats.



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