Public Affairs: Soap Box - Charles Lewington, managing director, Hanover

Last week, the BFI and Hanover marked 75 years of party political broadcasts with a special screening of a film, taken from PPBs throughout the ages.

Afterwards, an expert panel and the invited audience from media, politics and business discussed whether PPBs converted floating voters, the influence of 'new media', the continued pre-eminence of TV and the pros and cons of negative campaigning.

Andrew Lansley suggested the most effective negative campaign was probably the 1992 Tory tax bombshell, while Michael Heseltine supported negative campaigning when it chimed with the public mood. He advised that a party should kick its opponent when he's down, and keep kicking. However, Danny Finkelstein warned against negative PPBs, arguing the public learned more about the party wielding the knife, and often didn't like what they learned.

When David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives, he said politicians should 'let sunshine win the day'. However, in these gloomier times, and anxious to drive home his advantage after 12 years of Labour, we must wait to see how optimistic the party's PPBs will be in the face of very negative campaigning from Labour, which has few other cards left to play.

- The film is available at hanovercomms.com.

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