Leader of the One London Party at the London Assembly Damian Hockney wonders why politicians and the media give endless coverage to attacks the BNP by politicians who themselves are not very popular. It is counterproductive and arrogant, he says. And he suggests that coverage of the BNP in a negative way, together with failure to cover the positive aspects of other small parties, is more reminiscent of Zimbabwe style electoral processes than those of a democracy.
We KNOW that endless regular drip drip media coverage for a product or person gives branding and public recognition. Why else do L’Oreal and Ford spend millions on tv advertising?
We KNOW that ‘bad’ publicity is not an absolute definition. What would be bad publicity for a church leader might be good for a rock star. When the mother of the Oasis Gallagher brothers said in an interview that the little scallywags had spent their youth up the wooden hill by 9pm with a cup of cocoa and a copy of the Good Book, this was regarded as catastrophic publicity to be suppressed at all costs. By 1997, their reputation and earning power lay in creating and maintaining an entirely different impression.
So can no-one in public life grasp one thing? That when a bunch of not-that-popular politicians from what the BBC calls “the main parties” spend large amounts of energy and provide hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of media coverage attacking a small political party like the BNP…well, you can surely see where I’m coming from – all that’s going to happen is that they help build that party’s brand, whet the appetite for information on the party of the horned ones, and give them the oxygen of that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of media coverage
Of course no-one ever gives the horned ones the opportunity to really respond…hence the BNP can claim the most viewed political website. Because where can we all go get information on this valuable brand being built so assiduously by the press and the “main parties”.
Media coverage has immense value. It is fought for by an army of highly paid publicists using every trick in the book to get volume mentions. Anyone who believes that tv and radio have no value are not living in today’s world.
I pulled out of the Mayoral race precisely because the state radio and television guidelines were such an attack on small parties that they will remain invisible for the course of the campaign – because of those guidelines and the way they have been designed. And of course I am being proved right. Among the hours of tedious tv and radio coverage of Ken and Boris (and a bit of the other bloke), how many mentions have you all seen of the English Democrats? Or the Left List? Probably none. And all because of those state guidelines.
And of course the best advertising of all is third party recommendations. Which is why those companies pay millions to celebs to tell you how brilliant their shampoos are.
And that process works in reverse. If an unpopular person attacks you, that too makes good brand building. Just think of this. Ken Livingstone was first choice of only 15% of London’s voters at the last Mayor election and is liked/disliked by a substantial proportion of the electorate. That’s the nature of politics and is no reflection on the Mayor. Considerably less than 20% (one in five) voted for him when you combine first and second choice votes. If he stands up and attacks you as an opponent, he gives you more branding and more coverage with the over 80% who did NOT vote for him. If you can’t stand “that Red Ken” and he’s seen having a rant at his bogeyman, then aren’t you just going to think: “maybe these BNP boys have got a point”? And for those who think Boris is clueless, to hear him spluttering on about not wanting the votes of those who have the temerity to vote BNP…well there again, more branding, more memory jogs for May 1st.
Had I had Ken standing up berating “that Damian Hockney and his evil One London Party” a few weeks ago I should never have retired from the race. I would have been guaranteed a decent vote and at least our Assembly seats back. With Boris chiming in as well, I’d have been looking at making serious inroads.
But there seems to be a strange belief in the media and indeed among the politicians of the “main parties” that if they give loads of coverage to these supposedly “respected” politicians berating a small party, that everyone will listen and say “Oooh that nice Mr Livingstone says don’t vote for the BNP so I won’t”. That’s not how it works. Isn’t a typical BNP voter more likely to respond to this welter of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of third party ‘recommendation’ and memory joggers by simply remembering to actually go out and vote BNP? Doesn’t it just remind the average voter endlessly that the BNP are standing…while indeed reinforcing the impression that others like UKIP, the Christian Alliance, English Democrats et al are not actually in the race?
I have to give politicians and media the benefit of a doubt and assume they have some grasp of modern marketing. After all, by their guidelines on tv coverage for the Mayor elections, state radio and television in collusion with the “main parties” has effectively strangled at birth any challengers from outside the “main” contenders.
But I think that arrogance on a grand scale means that they really think that by their demonisation of just one small party they will knock it on the head. That everyone hangs on their words to such a degree that mass revulsion will set in with a few carefully edited and distorted clips. A few choice cuts using maximum editorial licence, maximum lack of balance and the most distorted mirror possible to reflect diverse politics.
Another important point is the linking of the fortunes of other small parties with the BNP by broadcast guidelines. Because the BNP are so demonised, broadcasters wish to give them limited platform. But the guideliens say that all these small parties must be treated equally. Nick Ferrari said to me on LBC when I pulled out of the Mayoral race that the absurd rules mean that they could have me on ONLY after I pulled out! Because of the rules whereby they have to have all what are called the “minor” candidates on, it is just too much to do and sometimes impossible. And of course among those candidates they must have on are…the BNP. So they all actively close down the spots available for all “minor” candidates because of both the logistics and of course the bogeyman.
Is it possible that there is a hidden agenda for these attacks and the demonisation then? Because they have set up state rules on coverage which place many candidates on an equal footing with the BNP…and then actively discourage any coverage of the BNP, which in turns invokes “balance” and “fairness” rules and we are all prevented from appearing – because unless the BNP do as well, those rules would be broken. Catch 22? Or Soviet election rules c 1952?
Damian Hockney is Lead Candidate for the One London Party on the London Assembly List elections , May 1st