The post-mortem of this election campaign will continue in the days and weeks ahead. People will mull over the statistics around swings, turn out and the impact of tactical voting. But just hours after the result became clear, it’s already possible to identify the key reasons why Boris Johnson will now re-enter 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.
A clear message
We wrote earlier this week about the Conservatives’ success in making this the ‘Get Brexit Done’ election. Central to this process was clarity of message. From the day the election was called until polling day, every piece of Tory messaging was centred on Brexit. Even when announcing a new policy, it was anchored to the idea that key to that policy’s success was seeing Brexit through to completion. Besides Brexit, it’s hard to recall other Conservative policies. The public were not asked to make complex choices, they were simply asked to put their faith in the Tories to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
Compare this approach to Labour’s.
Each day saw another major policy announcement: nationalisation of industry; free broadband; a Green New Deal. At various points of the campaign the public were being implored to ‘Save the NHS’, end homelessness, prevent the need for foodbanks.
Important goals, but largely intangible ones; the public could be forgiven for losing track of what they were being asked to vote for, with no central, recurring message, and no clear imperative to pick Labour.
A single-minded approach
Fundamentally, the Tories fought this election campaign on their terms; from refusing to expose Boris Johnson to trickier TV interviews, to withdrawing from the larger leader debates, and publishing an unusually short manifesto. The Conservatives made the calculated risk that the damage done by a bad performance or policy misstep would be greater than the criticism they would receive for seemingly avoiding closer scrutiny. That gamble has now paid off.
In comparison, perhaps admirably, Labour allowed itself and its leader to be submitted to every type of public scrutiny, regardless of the possible risks.
The now infamous Andrew Neil interview controversy reveals this better than anything else. Corbyn put himself to the test against the most forensic interviewer in the UK, and his reputation was diminished by the experience. Johnson simply refused to take part, with seemingly no consequences for his campaign.
A relevant message
Whatever your views on it, the Conservatives centred their campaign on an issue about which everyone cares – Brexit. The issue intrinsically motivated voters to actually vote – and in enough numbers to hand the party a large majority.
Labour, in contrast, focused on policies and issues that for many voters are, at most, on the periphery of their daily consciousness. In an era of profound political discontent, when a clear space exists for a left of centre party to control the discourse over how to build a fairer society, Jeremy Corbyn chose to centre his campaign on renationalising the railways. He asked the public to believe that his programme for government was the most relevant to their lives, and the public’s answer was a decisive no.
The last three election campaigns have convinced us that the traditional two party system, with strong majority governments, is over. Last night proved this wrong. The Conservatives’ approach to this campaign was simple and ultimately hugely effective – find a clear, relevant message and let nothing or no-one throw you off course.
Whether that approach will be enough to carry the party through the challenges ahead, only time will tell.
Written by Brands2Life’s Public Affairs team