Who won the communications battle at the Party Conference?
22 October 2014, Blog
After the Liberal Democrat conference had finished it seemed clear that of the three main parties, it was the Conservatives who had had the most effective communications.
Their conference began with another MP defection to UKIP and there were rumours throughout their conference that another high profile defection was due. However, despite this bad start, the conference ended on a note of eagerness and excitement about the forthcoming election that was surprising to observers. Comparatively, Labour, for a party that is hoping to win the next election, had a conference which lacked significantly in energy and enthusiasm.
Even before Ed Milliband’s disastrous speech, undermined by major omissions, the Labour conference was already feeling flat. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats had a positive conference which was buoyed up by the fact that despite dire poll ratings, the party is still on target to be the power broker in a hung parliament.
Immediately after the conference season, it seemed that the Conservatives had the communications initiative. However, on Thursday 9th October (one day after Liberal Democrat conference concluded), UKIP secured their first victory for an election to the House of Commons and came a very close second to Labour in another election held on the same day. These results wiped out much of the benefit that political parties used to gain after party conferences and once again, the media was filled with stories about UKIP and their threat to the main parties.
Conferences can usually be relied upon to give all three parties a temporary boost in the polls. However, in this crucial pre-election year the UKIP effect has kept the polls broadly the same and means that no major party has momentum in the run up to May 2015. The rise of a new protest party, which is able to secure far greater media coverage than electoral results would usually justify means that the old paradigms for the three main parties are no longer appropriate. They must radically adjust the communications strategies to respond to this new threat.