Election 2024: Placards, pledges and positive responses on the doorstep

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How is your General Election going? Hanging in there, or have you pressed the mute button on your remote control, and hung a ‘do not disturb’ notice on the door to keep canvassers away?

It’s just a week or so ago that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stood in a torrential downpour to announce the July 4 poll before squelching back into Downing Street. It feels like a lifetime already.

The parties have ticked off their campaign cliches. Battle buses - cleaned and on the road. TikTok training to ensure their leaders are down with Gen Z - done, although the results are still the political equivalent of dad dancing in a nightclub.

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Pledges - got them by the hundred. Almost as many placards emblazoned with “hope” or “change” or some similar aspiration that can’t actually come back to bite them as it promises nothing too specific. Everyone remembers the £350m figure sprayed across Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus …

Lib Dems photo bomb the Prime Minister (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)Lib Dems photo bomb the Prime Minister (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Lib Dems photo bomb the Prime Minister (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

But they do share one thing - a positive response on the doorsteps. Every door on every street in every town responds with an “ooh that sounds amazing, you’ve got my vote” or at least a fist bump and maybe a wee bourbon biscuit as they head down the path. I’m not entirely sure where this political heaven is - so far, I’ve not seen a leaflet, let alone heard a chap at the door from a canvasser, and, no, that isn’t an invitation to turn up the moment you see me sticking the kettle on for a brew.

It’s as if every party just dusts off its playbook from the last election and goes with the same format once again. There has to be a better way of engaging with an electorate that seems increasingly weary. The disconnect between our parties and leaders and the people who vote for them is growing and that is dangerous.

It’s incumbent on our parties and their leaders to engage like never before. Bounding on a platform in a factory in Wales for a 20-minute visit, and being seen meeting ‘real people’- carefully vetted ones only - feels old hat.

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When Sunak turned up at a factory to do his rap in front of the staff suitably arranged in a semi-circle, he wasn’t really talking to them. His message was for a much wider television audience, which is why it was brilliant to see one woman standing behind him roll her eyes and deliver an expression of complete disdain. It was clearly noted by the special advisers - those weird folk who scurry around making sure everything is just perfect - who dispatched a big bald fella to stand in front of her. If people are going to be used as plants they may as well just carry around some actual pot plants and let them get on with their day.

Thankfully, Ed Davey has opted for the Willie Rennie approach and injected some fun into the campaign, and I suspect the sight of him falling off a paddle board made folk realise the Lib Dems are actually still around. Most thought they’d gone the same way as fruit Polos and Vauxhall Vivas.

No surprise then that his party pulled off the best stunt yet. As Sunak held court on a terrace on the bank of the Thames, they sailed past waving their impossible to miss orange placards.

The Prime Minister really hasn’t got a clue about stopping those boats … has he?

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