Why Campaign? Marketing and Politics in the 1997 and 2001 UK Elections
Margaret Scammell

Introduction On the eve of a general election in the United Kingdom, Margaret Scammell, lecturer in media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, asks whether campaigns really have any effect. How much real influence can four weeks of campaigning have, after the four whole years of government and opposition which have preceded it?

Amid claims of voter apathy, Scammell considers the implications of increasingly sophisticated political advertising and party-communications machines. Dismissing claims of a crisis of civic engagement, she identifies the development of a highly critical electorate which views voting as a process akin to consumption. In such a context, political marketing would necessitate a better understanding of the electorate, thus establishing a more credible relationship between government and the governed.

"One of the defining features of this campaign is that people thought it was over before it even began."

Margaret Scammell discusses the crucial aspects of the 1997 and 2001 general election campaigns in the UK.

"It is a criticism of political marketing that it sells politics like cornflakes. However, if you look at the advertising, it actually sells politics much worse than cornflakes."

Margaret Scammell examines the nature of political advertising in Britain.

"A four-week campaign is not going to decide a British election. Campaigns are of relatively minor importance compared to the four years that precede them."

Margaret Scammell considers the impact of election campaigns and the role of the media.

Relevant Links
The Conservative Party

The Labour Party

The Liberal Democrats

Copyright London School of Economics and Political Science.