by Peter Harris on 29 June, 2012
Nottingham’s University’s Professor of Parliamentary Government and local resident Philip Cowley has articulated “Cowley’s Law of Campaigning”
“There is an inverse relationship between the importance of any election campaign technique and the amount of media coverage devoted to it”.
My colleague Mark Pack points out that ‘Cowley’s Law’ “encapsulates and broadens an experience [Mark] often had when working for the Liberal Democrats and running the party’s 2001 and 2005 general election campaigns”
Mark Pack pays attention in his writing to the recent rise of electronic campaigning. Whilst I understand this attention, my own experience, in the rural area of Southwell and Caunton is that, whilst important, other methods are still much more significant. My own e-mail readership in a ward of over 9000 people is, I guess, just over 12%, and this is much larger than many other email contact lists of opponents and colleagues alike. Other social media, whilst really useful in building campaigns, has a proportionally lower significance. Social media is very good at enthusing and enabling opinion formers in my rural area, but I have major doubts on its impact on voting behaviour. Research material is needed here too.
As Mark Pack writes “Cowley’s Law was originally coined with techniques such as direct mail in mind. Millions of pounds are spent on it by political parties, but it is little studied.” Moreover, the impact of research onto individual election campaigns at a general election let alone at local level is even more opaque. Whilst national party organisations advise local campaigns, and even provide templates of material and scripts, these are often not used in the way suggested by their writers who have read or even undertaken the research.
Local media coverage of any campaigning is minimal, coverage of any local election campaign techniques is almost entirely absent – except in my own case when the Conservatives made two spurious, and unproven allegations, which got several column inches in the local press. I doubt very much whether the final resolution – which has meant no further action taken by the Police – will be reported at all!
You can see some of our election material on our Focus pages.Leave a comment