Battle of the Election Videos: Lib Dems’ “Incredible Silent Man” v. “Labour’s Un-credible Shrinking Man”

by Stephen Tall on May 8, 2014

So Labour’s party election broadcast then… Titled The Un-credible Shrinking Man it mocks Nick Clegg as a deluded patsy of the posho Tories. He starts off being offered a biscuit and ends up being chased across the cabinet table by a big cat. Because he’s shrunk, y’see. And naked. I’m not sure I’m doing its nuanced subtlety justice. It’s sort-of funny, at least if you enjoy laughing at one-dimensional caricatures which fit your pre-existing bias – a bit like a sketch for Radio 4′s The Now Show. You can watch it for yourselves here.

Kudos to the Lib Dem team at Great George Street who immediately re-packaged the party’s own video The Incredible Silent Man chiding Labour leader Ed Miliband’s reluctance to take the fight to Ukip or make the case for Europe:

Labour’s video has certainly got noticed, a rare enough feat for a party election broadcast. Remarkably it’s even driven Dan Hodges, the Telegraph’s uber-Blairite New Labour-lover, into the arms of Nick Clegg:

I’ve decided to vote for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader is the only one to have the courage to take a stand against Ukip from the beginning. Yes, there’s obviously an element of political calculation behind his decision. He knows it’s good for the Lib Dem base – what’s left of it – to see him taking the fight to the anti-European Right. But moments when doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient at the same time don’t come along that often in politics. And when they do they do, those that engineered them deserve to be rewarded.

Clegg is also the only political leader who has actually been making these European elections about Europe. Farage has turned them into a referendum on immigration. Cameron has tried to turn them into an advert for the recovering economy. Miliband has tried to use them as a full-scale drill for the general election in 2015

What’s more, Clegg hasn’t just talked about Europe, he’s made the case for Europe. I’d have preferred it if he’d come up with slightly catchier sound-bite than “we’re the party of In”. And the pro-Europe camp is definitely going to have to come up with something catchier before the referendum in 2017. But it’ll do for now. And whatever mistakes the Lib Dem leader has made in the past – and I’ve unsparingly chronicled most of them – he’s the only politician to engage with the voters over Europe maturely and honestly during this campaign.

Nick Clegg has taken a stand. He deserves to have people standing with him.

I doubt many people will be repelled by it to the extent Dan, ever the contrarian, is. It’s a video squarely aimed at shoring up its core vote in advance of a two sets of low turn-out elections. People who think the Tories are poor-hating, disabled-despising, braying monsters and who think the Lib Dems have betrayed every principle they’ve ever held in return for a biscuit may well like it. Those people are already likely to vote Labour, but may well not bother doing so on 22nd May. This video’s intended to tickle them out of their chairs. Maybe it’ll work, at least insofar as any party election broadcast can be said to work, by achieving this outcome. I assume Labour market-tested it with voters to check it would deliver against that modest, limited aim (didn’t they?).

I doubt you’ll see this tactic repeated ahead of next May’s general election. Then, voter turnout will be higher. Labour will need to coax, appeal and persuade it can be a better government, rather than rely on taunting, deriding and insulting its opponents. By then, this video will have been forgotten… though probably not by Lib Dems or Nick Clegg.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.