Election 2015: Labour's strategy will be to rise above Tory negative tactics of 'falsehood and smear'

The Prime Minister will not feature in any negative posters. Jane Merrick on the parties' differing tactics

David Cameron is to be airbrushed out of Labour’s general election campaign in an attempt by Ed Miliband to rise above Conservative negative tactics of “falsehood and smear”, the party’s election chief said last night.

Highly personal attack posters, traditional for all parties, will be ditched by Labour strategy chiefs, who will instead focus on Mr Miliband’s “four million conversations” campaign. The Prime Minister will not feature in any posters, according to a “state of the race” campaign memo by Labour’s chair of election strategy, Douglas Alexander.

Labour, suffering from a lack of funds, will limit the number of posters because they are expensive, both to create and to place, and reach relatively few people. Instead, they will focus on doorstep campaigning, co-ordinated via social media – dubbed a “go online to get offline” strategy.

Yet, refusing to use the Prime Minister’s face could be seen as a tacit admission by Labour that Mr Cameron could count against them – because he remains more popular than Mr Miliband in the polls.

With the election still three months away, the Conservatives launched a poster last week showing Ed Miliband with his arm around Alex Salmond in front of No 10 with the slogan: “Your worst nightmare… just got worse” – claiming that Labour could only govern  if “propped up” by the Scottish National Party. And after reports – denied by Labour – that Mr Miliband was courting Sinn Fein MPs for a rainbow coalition, Tory HQ released a second poster, with the Labour leader, Mr Salmond and Gerry Adams, and the headline: “Your worst nightmare… just got even worse”.

But in a memo to activists this weekend entitled “the difference has never been clearer”, Mr Alexander said: “The Tories have now bought up hundreds of billboard poster sites on high streets across the country for the months of March and April to run their negative personalised adverts.

 

“It already seems clear that the Tories intend to spread falsehood, fear and smear. They will seek to avoid open debate and scrutiny. The Tories will dig deep into their donors’ pockets – and plumb new depths – in their desperation to cling on.”

Mr Alexander said that, instead, Labour would “focus our campaign on issues, not personalities – we won’t run any billboard posters with pictures of David Cameron on them”. Mr Miliband was also “ready, willing and able to take part in the TV debates”. Mr Alexander added: “We will not run an old-fashioned campaign, talking over voters’ heads. We will run a campaign with four million conversations at its heart.”

In what will be a regular campaign memo, Mr Alexander said that Labour activists and MPs had engaged in “hundreds of thousands” of face-to-face conversations, and that the target of four million was on track to be surpassed before polling day on 7 May. He added: “We’re doing it this way not just because it is the best way to win votes in an election marked by high levels of cynicism and mistrust. We’re doing it because we believe politics begins and ends with the people.”

A Conservative source said: “This is desperate stuff. Labour says it won’t put any images of David Cameron on posters, but the real question is: will they take the risk and put their number one electoral liability, Ed Miliband, on any billboards?”

The election has already taken a bitter turn with a row between Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron over claims that the Labour leader said privately he wanted to “weaponise” the issue of the NHS, leading to fierce clashes at Prime Minister’s Questions. The Liberal Democrats are trying to rise above this row with an appeal for a cross-party review into health spending.

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