European Parliament Election 2014: How not to run a political campaign

Ukip's latest error of judgement is the most recent in a long line of political strategies gone wrong

A day seldom passes without Ukip making an ass of itself in some new and unforeseeable way. The Sun was outraged yesterday that it should use the sacrifice made by British soldiers who died in the First World War as party-political propaganda. As the day progressed, it turned out that it had not done its basic research, either.

It is too late now to help out with this election campaign, but for future reference, this cut-out-and-keep guide for spin doctors might help them to steer around the most obvious elephant traps in future.

Remember: not everyone cares about politics as much as you do.

Ukip reproduced a photograph of a war grave under the heading: "They fought and died to keep Britain free from foreign invasion." Its first offence was against good taste. Although it is very nearly 100 years since the start of the First World War, the public still revere the memory of the war dead, and do not like seeing them being used in this trivial context.

Do your research.

Ukip might have got away with just a weak grasp of history, which makes it suppose that the country went to war in 1914, or 1939, "to keep Britain free from invasion". In both cases, it was because other countries had been invaded. But the party made an even worse mistake by not studying the photograph it used: while some of the graves depicted were of British soldiers, most were of French soldiers, whose country, unlike the UK, was fighting off a foreign invasion.

Be careful how you use statistics.

Labour slipped up badly this month with its "two peas in a pod" advertisement, which accused David Cameron and Nick Clegg of adding £450 to the weekly shopping bill by putting up VAT. In January 2011, VAT went up by two and a half pence in the pound, which would cost you £450 if you spent about £20,000 on items on which VAT is payable. If that was not bad enough, the accompanying illustration consisted mostly of food items, on which there is no VAT.

When hiring actors, check them out.

Another of Ukip's recent mistakes was to create a billboard poster warning that British workers have been "hard hit" by cheap labour from other EU countries. The face on the billboard was that of an Irish actor.

When using real people, check them out…

Ukip's April political broadcast featured Andre Lampitt, who looked like a reasonable sort, complaining about what a struggle it is to find work when competing with East Europeans. In no time, an embarrassed party leadership suspended Lampitt's membership because of racist comments made on Twitter.

…even if you don't mean them to be identified.

During the 1992 election campaign, the Labour Party ran a highly professional broadcast dramatising the story of a young girl with glue ear whose mother was told that the only quick way to get treatment was to pay for it. This was based on a true story, embellished a little. The Labour Party wrongly assumed that the girl would not be identified, but within hours, the family had journalists on their doorstep. The attempt to make the NHS an election issue was lost in the resulting furore.

Don't pose a question that invites the wrong answer.

In 2005, the Conservative campaign slogan was: "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" "No," the voters replied.

And if you must do an attack ad, don't flatter your opponent by mistake.

In April 2010, David and Ed Miliband launched Labour's new campaign poster, depicting David Cameron as DCI Gene Hunt from the strangely popular television series Life on Mars, with the slogan: "Don't let him take Britain back to the 1980s." This assumed that everyone had bad memories of the 1980s, which they haven't; that Cameron looked like someone from the past, which he didn't; and that the association with a much-loved fictional hero could damage him. The Conservatives loved the image so much they used it themselves.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Carer / Support Worker plus Bank Support

£10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A delightful, 11 year old boy who lives in t...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor