Rules of engagement

What do you consider acceptable political campaigning techniques? I’ve been reading a few political histories lately and, as someone who is interested in that sort of thing, I’m fascinated. Here are a few from one such book – and to get some interactivity going, can you guess whose opinions they are? Is this person right?

1. Say enough – but not too much – about what you’ll do.

An outline programme of enough substance to be credible, but lacking the details that would allow opponents to damn it, should be sufficient. The Liberal Democrats should perhaps have considered this before saying they would not raise student fees, or that they would abolish control orders (these were replaced with TPIMs, otherwise known as control orders).

2. Attack your opponents in a strong, but believeable, way.

Personal attacks won’t do – calling your opponent a liar, cheat or fraud. Is George Osborne a liar because he said cutting the public sector would allow private enterprise in to fill the gaps, and this hasn’t happened? No, he isn’t. He was mistaken. The nation is paying for that mistake, but he wasn’t lying about it. In my opinion.
However, if a leader is weak (David Cameron) and the party divided (Conservatives on Europe), these are good political weapons to be exploited.

3. Fight complacency.

Huge opinion poll leads can be lost overnight (as Labour has discovered in recent weeks); political opponents should never be underestimated; campaigners should ensure they are in touch with the modern voter in the modern world. Behave as though you’re on a knife-edge from start to finish.

4. Make sure your team doesn’t screw up.

If one of your campaigners has to resign, gets caught in a scandal, or says something stupid (as Gordon Brown knows too well), it’s electoral suicide.

5. Do not be opportunistic.

You might think you’re saying the right thing now, but your own words might come back to bite you in the future, with consequences that can put your position at risk (Eds Miliband and Balls saying they won’t be able to reduce Coalition cuts, for example?).

Feel free to add some of your own.

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