Opinion: Liberal Democrats’ new Manchester campaign video takes it too far and makes them look desperate

Manchester’s arm of the Liberal Democrats is pushing its campaign to reclaim the council this Thursday with the release of a provocative video.

This time however the hopeful party have taken it too far.

Their latest release is a hard-hitting film called ‘What Will You Say?’ akin to an Action Aid advert prompting you to save a starving child. It essentially conjures guilt in voters considering opting for Labour and suggests many painful years of voter’s remorse if they do so.

The point: to resonate with voters and pull on even the faintest of heart strings by using children, anxious after hearing the failings of the current Labour-heavy council.

Hit play and you’re introduced to a number of children innocently watching TV and cuddling with their toys, but there’s an eerie aura to it – they all look terrified.

Cue a voiceover reading out controversial headlines referring to the council’s shortcomings in areas like affordable housing, homelessness and support for refugees. It also features criticism for the outrageous comments made by Labour’s infamous councillor for Withington, Chris Paul.

It’s obviously meant to make you reflect and persuade you to vote Liberal Democrat, but it appears confused.

We’re all too familiar with the black and white stained images depicting horrendous scenes that this video draws influence from.

But that familiarity has the power to do the opposite: we tend to shy away from being disturbed by what we see and hear and turn to talk about something more comfortable.

And sadly, that’s what this video does. It’s uncomfortable to watch because it targets voters in a way that says: “This could be you, you could be ruining your children’s lives” … by voting for Labour.

That said, it’s important to note that every single headline is true – it’s not fake news. The video portrays the recent years here truthfully, there has been an awful lot of homeless-shaming and women’s rights haven’t exactly been the highest up on agendas.

Didsbury West Councillor John Leech told MM: “The council gets away with a lot of things and it spends all its time saying everything is the government’s fault.

“We have a duty to make sure that as many people as possible know what the Labour council actually stands for. We try and get that point across on the doorstep and in our literature because it’s bad for democracy to have little or no opposition.

“It’s surely much better for democracy having a larger group of people actually scrutinising the council. They are getting away with frankly outrageous decisions some times with people not even realising.”

However the campaign video should focus on educating the electorate through the facts it lays out, rather than discrediting their choices.

The fact that the current electoral system could allow the entire council to go back to a one-party state without scrutiny is the real issue, and one that far too few people know about.

But it isn’t just about what they do and don’t say – the entire aura surrounding the video feels too keen and verging on embarrassing.

On Thursday, all 96 council seats are up for re-election so, naturally, the Liberal Democrats are eager to make their mark and form a meaningful opposition.

But this video is an example of how far the Liberal Democrats are willing to go to make that mark, by alienating Labour voters rather than promoting their own manifesto.

It’s something you’d expect to see in the 2020 Presidential campaigns in the US, not Manchester’s council election – and it smells of desperation.

Image courtesy of John Leech via YouTube, with thanks.

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