Political PR in the 2005 UK General Election: Winning and Losing, With a Little Help From Spin

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Abstract:

The public relations of the UK general election of 2005 is examined in the light of the active promotional culture of British politics, a culture that is especially active at election time. The PR or 'spin' can be seen as a presentational trellis offering to voters, mostly via the media, glimpses of policies and politicians which are favourable to the originating party. The purpose of the trellis for the parties is to maximise their electoral advantage and to minimise their disadvantage. The major obstacle to their success is the capacity of the media to brush aside the trellis and to report on the 'other side'. Whatever the benefits and costs for democracy of this tension between partisan presentation and journalism, there is little evidence that voter disengagement with electoral politics is caused by these public relations shows. Political PR is part of the UK's promotional culture; voter disengagement relates to other systemic and more causal features of contemporary British society. A small purposive (but unrepresentative) survey of campaign observers showed key features of political PR servicing the fundamentals of party, policy and personality.
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