Race rows, punch-ups and car-crash interviews: Top election PR gaffes

With the 2015 election campaign in full swing, leaders of all the political parties are under scrutiny and there are bound to be numerous PR gaffes before votes are cast on 7 May. We look at some of the biggest blunders, mishaps and strategy missteps we've seen so far and look back at some classics from previous years.

Regrettable remark: Gordon Brown met his match with Mrs Duffy
Regrettable remark: Gordon Brown met his match with Mrs Duffy

Ed Balls – Bill Somebody?

It's easy to forget names, and that is exactly what happened to shadow chancellor Ed Balls during a late-night interview on BBC’s Newsnight in February.

In a bid to talk up Labour’s standing in the commercial world, Balls claimed he had had dinner with a number of prominent business leaders who supported the party.

When pressed to name anyone he’d spoken to, awkwardness ensued.

Conservative Party PRs probably couldn't believe their luck, and David Cameron was prepped to land a humorous blow during Prime Minister’s Questions at the expense of his right-honourable friend.

Harriet Harman – The Barbie Bus

Attempting to inject colour into this year’s election, Harriet Harman went on a mission to urge females to vote with her ‘woman-to-woman’ campaign.

The deputy Labour leader admitted she'd signed off a pink van, later dubbed the 'Barbie bus', to help attract the attention of women.

Despite putting up an passionate defence of the idea, Harman was mercilessly mocked over the choice of colour, with many voters seeing it as patronising and possibly even sexiest.

Nigel Farage – Here’s another fact

One of the biggest talking points of the 2015 campaign was provided by the head-to-head televised debate between seven party leaders.

Many expected UKIP chief Nigel Farage to deliver a controversial soundbite and he didn’t disappoint.

Farage took a calculated risk when he suggested that immigrants were using up valuable resources on the NHS for HIV treatment. 

Polls indicated that Farage's gamble appeared to have backfired, with just 23.8 per cent of viewers expressing a positive sentiment vs 76.2 per cent negative towards him.

Natalie Bennett – The car crash

In one of the most cringe-inducing political interviews so far this year, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was left mortified after an atrocious performance during a radio interview on LBC.

Despite coughing and spluttering during the interview, Bennett was afforded no mercy by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari.

Admitting that she didn’t know where the party would get the money to build 500,000 homes almost derailed the Green Party's campaign before it started.

As an indicator to how bad the interview was, Bennett was trending on Twitter for a full 24 hours following the interview and was signed up for media training.

Rozanne Duncan – I don’t know why

During the BBC documentary ‘Meet the Ukippers’, councillor Roxanne Duncan was filmed saying that she had a problem with "negroes" but didn't know why.

Despite being expelled for bringing the party into disrepute, the UKIP councillor brought some unwanted publicity to the Thanet South seat, where party leader Nigel Farage is contesting a seat.

Gordon Brown – Bigoted woman

Politics has numerous unwritten rules, but the golden rule is to not insult voters.

Unfortunately Gordon Brown put his foot in it during a meeting with "lifelong" Labour supporter Gillian Duffy. What should have been a pleasant exchange turned into a PR nightmare after his microphone was left on and he was recorded calling her a "bigoted woman".

Although PR advisers tried to repair the damage by having the then Prime Minister apologise to Duffy in person, there was no recovering from the damage to his reputation.

John Prescott – Mama said knock you out

During the 2001 campaign, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was egged by a member of the crowd as he made a visit to Wales.

Never one to backdown, Prescott landed a jab on the protester before a brief scuffle was broken up.

"I was attacked by an individual. In the melee that followed I clearly defended myself. I believe that someone is now being questioned by the police and it would be quite improper and quite wrong to add any further comment," said Prescott.

Neil Kinnock – That speech

Going to the polls in 1992, the election was in a dead-heat, with neither Labour nor the Conservatives in the lead. However, this didn’t stop leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, effectively show-boating during a political rally in Sheffield.

"We’re alright. We’re alright. We’re alright!" Kinnock bellowed in one of the most infamous scenes in British politics.

It turned out everything wasn’t quite alright.

Despite topping opinion polls leading up to the election, Labour lost and Kinnock resigned shortly afterwards. 

Historical accounts fail to provide conclusive evidence that his speech was the main reason the election was lost, but many believe the way he conducted himself during the course of the election was his downfall.

It could have been worse. It's not like he fell over after being swept off his feet by the incoming tide...

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in