Dude, where's my party?

Tory and Labour strategists are pivoting towards and away from their leaders, writes Martin Boon, director at ICM Unlimited, part of the Unlimited Group.

Have you noticed the strangest thing about this General Election campaign? One side doesn’t want to talk about which party it is, instead deifying its leader. The other party is airbrushing its leader out of sight, instead pushing the party name and individual constituency candidates.

Remind me what it is that we vote for again? Is it for a Prime Minister, a party or a candidate? Maybe vote for two and get the third free – which one comes free probably depends on which side of the fence you’re on. If you vote for Theresa May you may be surprised to hear that you’ve just voted for the Conservative Party. If you vote for a Labour candidate, I’m here to tell you that your choice of Prime Minister is Jeremy Corbyn. 

"Remind me what it is that we vote for again?"

But it’s entirely understandable, and campaign managers know exactly what they’re doing. Favourability impressions of Theresa May far outrank those of her party (it was her, remember, who called it the "nasty party") while Labour tries to prevent the Corbyn anchor sinking the party to the seabed with him. If current polls are anything to go by, they may need a few more flotation devices.

At least we know now what each party stands for, and that’s before the eagerly awaited manifestos drop next week. Well, I say that but "strong and stable government" is a mantra that has already bored the Westminster village while simultaneously failing to generate much in the way of recall among the electorate at large – only 15% of Britons claimed to have heard it last week and most of those self-reported their political engagement as ‘high’. Proof, if more were needed, that most people are not watching most of the time.

If strong and stable is not for you, then how about "For the many not the few". This is a classic Labour theme, pressing classic Labour buttons.  The question is whether it will move many, which is of course what the party needs it to do right now. It’s probably too soon to say given the lack of public awareness so far, but this next week will likely be crucial to the Labour cause, as the messages and the policies dovetail to positive effect, or to the kind of electoral oblivion that most are predicting.

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