The epic mug battle is only the latest of the cheap campaign gimmicks set to define this election

If this is really the sort of highbrow political discourse we’re going to have to endure for the next six weeks, count me out

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The Independent Online

This is it. Parliament has dissolved, the election is in full swing and it’s time for campaigners to hit the ground running. Ed Miliband is feeling particularly chatty, and is aiming to knock on at least four million doors by May 7. Sadly, there simply isn’t enough time to explain the party’s five big pledges to everybody and their mum. But don’t worry, because Labour has dreamt up an innovative solution to get their key messages out there: crockery.

That’s right: for a mere £5, you could be the proud owner of a shiny mug emblazoned with one of Labour’s central promises. Worried about the NHS? There’s a mug for you. Concerned about your child’s future? There’s a mug for you. Hate immigrants? There’s a mug for – wait, what?

It’s only been a few days, but Labour leaders are already getting all kinds of flak for trying to flog us a mug advertising their would-be tough guy stance on immigration. Even Labour MPs have branded the “controls on immigration” trinket "shameful". After all, not even the official UKIP mugs say anything overtly unfriendly towards foreigners. What gives?

The Labour camp probably thought they were telling the British people what they want to hear. Pollsters reckon nearly half of voters have been wanting Mr Miliband to say more about immigration, and issuing a strongly-worded coffee mug is a start down that road towards appeasement.

But let’s just pause for a moment to address the fact that Labour is not and has never been tough on immigration. Ed Miliband has admitted the party was pretty lax about it when they were in power, and their new flagship “attack” is a promise to implement a two-year wait before foreigners can claim benefits. That will accomplish next to nothing.

Believe it or not, most immigrants come here to work – not to claim benefits. They also tend to pay more in taxes, but that’s neither here nor there. The most frustrating part of this epic political fail isn’t the fact that Labour has been using a dishonest and arguably racist mug to win votes. It’s that they’re trying to use a mug to win votes, full stop.

Now, cheap political merchandise is nothing new – every party in Britain has been pushing the same tote bag for twenty years. But this immigration mug is by far the most exciting thing Labour has done in weeks. In fact, it’s generated so much buzz that the Greens have even tried to ride Mr Miliband’s crockery coattails by releasing a counter mug (it reads “standing up for migrants” and also costs a fiver, in case you’re interested). This is starting to get a little sad.

The epic mug battle of 2015 is only the latest in a cheap set of campaign gimmicks that are beginning to define this crucial election. Don’t know how to talk to women? Let’s paint a bus pink. Don’t know how to attack Labour? Attack the SNP. Don’t know how to sort out immigration? Paint a mug that says otherwise.

If this is really the sort of highbrow political discourse we’re going to have to endure for the next six weeks, count me out. These sideshow acts are distracting voters from the issues that truly matter – and if Labour’s immigration mug has misled a single person into voting for Mr Miliband come May, we should all be extremely worried about the future of this country.