The election for Mayor of London next year could be the first one where campaigning messages put up on YouTube and promoted by blogs and emails could make an important difference to the result. Previously they have been a rather frivolous aspect of electioneering offering entertainment for political obsessives.
But most Londoners use the internet. A lot more of us regularly look at YouTube clips than did in 2008 when Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London. So that aspect of the campaign is sure to be cranked up.
Often being emailed a campaign message by a friend will be the easiest way to reach busy London voters. For Londoners who go to work in the day time and then go out to socialise in the evening try to canvass them is a bit of a long shot. Nor can you expect them to spot Party Political Broadcasts on the television.
Of course there was some of this campaigning last time around.
There was this great ad from 18 Doughty Street:
But this time around with the campaign nearly six months away we already some impressive efforts.
This one from Crash Bang Wallace is notable example:
Part of the robustness of this campaigning is producing rebuttals.
The official Livingstone campaign produced the following broadcast on fares policy:
I think this was an effective broadcast. It made an effort to communicate a sum of money in tangible terms, with examples. Actually this is something that is particularly important for those on the right to pay attention to – for instance when trying to communicate the scale of Government debt and wasteful spending schemes.
Often journalists get billions and millions mixed up. I've been doing some local campaigning challenging the Thames Water Super Sewer which would cost £4.1 billion. That is such a vast sum that many people just disregard it. Their view on it would be the same if it was £410 million or £41 billion.Once you start to talk about the number of new hospitals that could be built instead or the equivalent of £100 a year on water bills for decades to come than the cost of better understood.
Anyway the Boris campaign have produced the following rebuttal ad:
This points out that Livingstone has promised to keep fares down before but broken his promise. It also gives examples of the cost of £963.58 – the extra money the average household had to pay in Council Tax over the eight years of his Mayoralty due to his Council Tax precepts.
Andrew Gilligan has also done a written rebuttal to Livingstone's ad. Gilligan's analysis shows that Livingstone's figures of saving £800 over four years to the "average user" are untrue even if he implemented his policy of a 5% fares cut followed by a freeze. (Even if we exclude the 37% of bus users who travel for free.)
Livingstone's ad also included a selective quotation from Boris.
The full comment from Boris was as follows:
The policy that I believe that you are committed to of a cut followed by a freeze in perpetuity of, or for the foreseeable future, in fare revenues would lose £850 million from TfL budgets. It would be catastrophic for London. We would not be able to go ahead with upgrades at Bank, at Tottenham Court Road of the Northern line, you would see huge cuts in busses in outer London. It would be, I think, the last thing that Londoners want or deserve. It is not a sensible policy for this City. It is cynical electioneering, it has no credibility whatever. Of course I would love to cut fares. Nothing would be more congenial to me as a politician, but it is not right. It is not right for this City.
But the Boris campaign rebuttal was probably the key point. Rather than getting into a debate about whether a fares cut was affordable or how much it would really save commuters is that Livingstone can't be relied upon to deliver on his promises in any event.
The Back Boris campaign are encouraging supporters to try making their own campaign videos.