November 22, 2019

The the character of politicians and their parties. While

The disenchantment of modern parties and politicians over
the years has been down to a number of factors such as the professionalization
of parties and ‘celebrity’ identity of politicians (Savigny, 2008), the organisation
of election campaigns, representation, ideology and the introduction of political
marketing. While writers such as Margaret Scammell (2014) see the importance of
parties becoming more professionalise, other writes such as Heather Savigny
(2008) are more critical about its intentions and the character of politicians
and their parties. While there are many reasons for citizens becoming disenchanted
with politicians and parties, the most important one for this essay will be the
political marketing technique.

 

With regards to examples used throughout this essay, I will
mainly be focusing on UK Politics as I believe that a significant amount of
data and information can be drawn from the last few General Elections which
have been heavily publicised. I will start with some brief definitions of
political parties and their structure within society in order to illustrate how
they have transformed alongside society overtime. This is important in order to
understand how political parties’ motives and strategies for gaining office
power have changed.

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Jennifer Lees-Marshment (2001) defines a political party as
an organisation which seeks to compete in democratic elections in order to win
elections to hold public office. Recruited by elites, the parties are a means
of representation in which they serve in order to ensure that there is an
‘effective link’ between citizens and the government (Lees-Marshment, 2001:13).
The Mass Party model by Duverger
(1954) is the best way to describe this particular politics. He argues that
parties are formed in order to represent a collective group, or class of people
in society. According to a ‘stratification of society’, parties created their
own distinct ideologies in which the British Labour Party represented the
working class, advancing a more socialist view, while the Conservative Party
were generally promoted conservatism of the higher classes (Duverger, 1954:419).
While it was mainly a two-party system within Britain, the difference ideology
allowed for electoral choice, which was resulted in a long-term support system.

 

However, the organisation of parties and elections have
changed over time due to inevitable changes of society which parties have had
to respond to within their campaigns and today we are faced with numerous
models to illustrate these changes. Through societal changes, Lees-Marshment
(2001) introduces the idea of a new ‘electoral market’ in which traditional models
of voting behaviour have been undermined and citizens are becoming more aware
and critical of party behaviour, influencing the way in which they vote.
Social, economic and technological changes have all influenced politics over
the years and while people have generally made their choices based on family
backgrounds and upbringings. This suggests that people are more likely to vote
on the basis of a rational understanding (Lees-Marshment, 2001). This is
perhaps the reason why only 37% of people can identify themselves with a party.
Have people found alternative ways to make a change? Or are people confused
about politics?

All
parties have a goal and in modern politics, these goals are achieved through
the introduction of political marketing, which is used to further increase
their chances of winning. Lees-Marshment (2001) outlines the three party types:
The Product-Oriented Party (POP), the Sales-Oriented Party (SOP) and the most
dominant one and most relevant for this essay, the Market-Oriented Party (MOP).
The MOP change their behaviour in return for voter satisfaction and they aim to
deliver what people want and need (Lees-Marshment, 2001:30). As people have
become more critical about political parties and party memberships are in
decline, it is vital that parties are adopting a market orientation in order to
give voters what they want and win elections. Lees-Marshment argues that
political marketing is not implemented merely to promote political parties and
politicians, but to engage with the electorate and make decisions about their
next moves based on voter’s opinions and so on. How true is this entirely? In
the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage pledged that
he would leave aside £350 million for the NHS, however, mere hours after the
Leave campaign’s victory, he retracted his place said it was a ‘mistake’ on the
voter’s behalf to vote leave for this reason (see: https://inews.co.uk/news/leave-campaigners-suggest-pledges-may-not-upheld/).
This deception shows the extent to which politicians are willing to manipulate
the public in order to win a campaign.

 

In Media and Democracy
(2010), James Curran is concerned with the democratic role of the media and the
relationship between entertainment and political activity. While he says that
most of the time the media that is consumed has nothing to do with public
affairs and unrelated to the ‘conventional understandings of politics’, Curran
believes that there is a political meaning of entertainment that is usually
ignored in the topic of the rise of entertainment which sees it as a diversion,
a separate category or politics as an entertainment category itself. What then,
is the democratic role of media if entertainment has political meanings? Curran
(2010) argues that entertainment is a debate over values and social identity
and norms.

 

In Post Democracy (2004),
Colin Crouch talks about the positions within politics and its organisation in
which there are three main groups: leaders, advisors and lobbyists. It is said
that individuals move between these roles and together creates the ‘specialised
occupation’ of politics (Crouch, 2004). The party leaders are always at the
core, seeking further advancement into leadership and

 

While the use of marketing improves the flow of information,
much of this information and the images produced are mediated and represented
to the public through the media (Harrop in Savigny, 2008). This is not to say
that the public are effected by everything that the media publishes, but the
media, do play a part in the political process (Savigny, 2008). Leading up to
each General Election, Politicians will carry out their campaign which is
largely documented by the media and televised for the general public. It also
seems that the presentation of politicians and policy is now just as
significant, perhaps more, than policy content itself (Savigny, 2008). While
there is not a distinct relationship between the media and political parties, it
is through the media which citizens get their information in order for them to
make their decision on who they choose to vote for. In the competition of
attracting an audience, news media are more questioning of politicians and parties,
contributing to the growing cynicism on the electorate side (Lees-Marshment,
2001 and Savigny, 2008).

 

One
of the many examples being on 21 May 2014, the final day of campaigning before
the electorate went to cast their vote, Ed Miliband was photographed eating a
bacon sandwich in a café. To the advantage of the media, the images instantly
blew up on the internet, even being ‘superimposed onto Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The
Last Supper” (Ross, 2015). The Labour Party’s opponent used this as their opportunity
to disgrace Miliband and present him as a hopeless Prime Minister, which went
onto cripple his image up until the day before the elections on 6 May 2015, The
Sun used this image along with the headline ‘SAVE OUR BACON. Don’t swallow his
porkies and keep him OUT’. It is headlines and images such as these which will
stick out in people’s mind which they will remember when they are at the
polling stations, it will get them thinking, ‘do I really want this man to be
in charge of this country?’ and this is what media outlets with a set agenda do
in order achieve their goal.

 

There were numerous occasions in which David Cameron
questioned Miliband’s leadership skills, saying ‘the guy who forgot to mention
deficit could be the one in charge of our whole country’ (Savigny, 2008). Not
only did this add to doubts about Miliband, but it helped create the perfect
image for Cameron as a Prime Minister that the public are looking for. Labour
strategists were aware of the work needed to be done in order to turn their
leader into a ‘winning brand’ for the electorate as ‘weird, geeky, even too
ugly to be Prime Minister’ which were the words used by the media to describe
Ed Miliband (Ross, 2015:232).

 

 

Scammell

 

Scammell (2014) argues that ‘political communication has and
is being transformed, and in its professionalization it has ratcheted up the
skills and expertise needed to run campaigns and squeezed the space for
amateurs’. However, as Savigny says, political marketing assumes that the
‘best’ use of political marketing will win the election as opposed to the
‘susceptible’ voter’s opinions(Savigny, 2008:33). The brand replaces ideology
as the cost-saving device for voters

 

Fragmented parties – Candidates/parties as competing brands

 

Scammell uses Tony Blair as an example when talking about
political branding and the fact that Blair was rebranded before the 2005
general election. Labour, ‘worries at their ability to mobilise their own
supporters and concerned at the depth of anger toward Blair’ use the branding
technique in order to ‘reconnect’ Blair with disaffected voters. New labour and
focus groups???

 

Talking simply of the term ‘brand’ Scammell suggests that a
brand does not emerge from the marketing activities of owner companies, but from
the experience and perception of consumers 
which arises out of multiple and diverse encounters (p69). O’Quinn and
Muniz (2010) develop her idea by going as far to say that the brands are not
just a ‘concreation’ but socially constructed set of interactions between
‘multiple parties, institutions, publics and social forces’. This suggests that
the quality of the social interaction is what makes this brand concept so
powerful.

 

Problem of Political
Marketing – Heather Savigny (2008)

 

Heather Savigny (2008) who is critical of the use of political
marketing, says that is not just confined to election campaigns, but has become
a means of governance which has shaped the formulation and implementation of
policy in office leading us to question the permanence of marketing as a
strategy. The concept of a ‘permanent campaigned’ (term initially used by
Blumenthal, 1980) suggests that marketing is a continual process, not just
confined within the formally designated campaigns. For example, in May 1997,
following the victory of the Labour Party, Tony Blair announced, ‘now starts
the campaign for the next election’.

 

Savigny is not arguing against the use of marketing per se,
but that marketing strategies have become dominant above all else. (page112)The
idea of voters and customers and politics as something which can be purchased
completely changes its nature- can be discarded easily, requires no loyalty,
engagement or long-term commitment.s

 

To reclaim politics into the political sphere, discussion
and debate need to move beyond the language of the marketplace. Politics takes
place in a densely structured social, economic, political and technological
environment and political actors respond to changes in technology, adapting
their style to developments in the media (Savigny, 2008:4). This goes against
the idea of the market-oriented party which is believed to serve the general
public their wants and needs. Politicians operate in a context bounded by
neoliberal thinking about both the utility of markets and the way in which
democracy and society more broadly is organised. For advocates of political
marketing, this is democractising and empowering, however, in this critical
sense, the use of this marketing reveals concern on the characters of
contemporary democracy.

 

It assumed that consumers impact the process of producing
the product in which their wants and needs are accommodated. The idea of the
consumers being involved in the production of the product is beneficial for the
party as they are more likely to promote it. However, in this process, there is
an element of manipulation as an organisation may ‘seek to shape those wants
and needs’ which Savigny calls ‘preference shaping’ (2008:37). Parties and
politicians will go to certain lengths of shaping voter’s beliefs in order to
benefit their interests. This presents an unequal relationship between the
political actors and citizens, in which marketing is used in a manipulative and
persuasive in order to influence opinions.  Going back to the example of Nigel Farage and
his empty promise of the £350 million going towards the NHS. Most of the people
that voted to leave the EU, would have voted just for this reason. This is an
instance in which political marketing went too far, and while the leave
campaign ultimately won the EU referendum, a large amount of people will regret
their choice and lose trust with these politicians.

 

Political actors, therefore, employ marketing strategies
during their campaigns in order to win elections using marketing contributes to
the depoliticisation (Savigny ??) of the political process, making it more of a
consumer/prosumer situation. While the voter turnout has been lower than usual,
does this actually mean that people are becoming disenchanted by modern parties
and politicians? Political actors are clever in their strategies and in
communicating their ideas (product) to voters (customers) through ….Preference
shaping/repeating the same phrases

 

Political actors would adopt ideas and techniques consistent
with this context they are in

 

Political activity regarded as analogous to that of a
business – political actors/parties/candidates are assumed to be operating in a
marketplace with the notion that that voters act as consumers and their
electorate vote for a party being a purchase of a political product.

 

Savigny rejects the normative claim that suggest that
‘political marketing makes parties more democratic by rendering them more
responsive to voters’ demands’ which in turn enhances democracy
(Lees-Marshment, 2001:225,228). This means that parties are able to achieve
their goals while voters benefit from a great opportunity to participate in the
process. However Savigny refutes these merely to assumptions and wants to focus
on the broader implications of applying marketing to politics.

 

The so called ‘dumbing down’ of politics has largely been
attributed to the emergence and development of new media (Savigny, 2008:104).
In their bid to attract as wide an audience as possible, and it seems that
traditional press med9a is trying to compete with new media and its ability to
be updated 24/7. Savigny argues that market demand for traditional media has
led to pressure being put upon politicians in order to provide them with
content that will gain an audience, hence the rise in photo opportunities which
we have seen with Ed Miliband eating his bacon sandwich which could be argued
to be the reason he was not elected as Prime Minister in 2015. Therefore,
politicians are always aiming for a friendly relationship with the media in
order to prevent this. med People can be easily manipulated through the media
and these marketing strategies put in place

Interest groups, new social movements and the myriad
organisations of civil society are also believed to be ‘essential components of
contemporary democracy’ (Curran, 2010:78). They monitor power-holders, seek to
influence public policy and represent different constituencies. They are a key
means by which ‘ordinary citizens’ can advance different, and often in
opposition to contending agendas, opinions, values and solutions (Curran,
2010). With the existence of groups like this in society, citizens are finding
other ways to voice their opinions. Those who no longer have faith in
politicians and political parties fine that new social movements are far more
efficient in the process of making a change to society.

 

While Ed Miliband was a professional politician, he did not
like television

 

The conceptual linkage between the material realm, of a
changing social, political and technological environment, characterised by
malaise, and the ideational context dominated by ideas in the relation to the
utility of marketing.

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