The last few months has seen General Elections in both Britain and Israel, the first being my nation of birth and where I lived until making Aliyah a year ago. Both election campaigns began with a right wing government leading a coalition. Both saw campaigns led by the left wing demonstrating their confidence of victory and polling suggesting likewise. And finally, both campaigns ultimately witnessed the return to power of the sitting government with a greater percentage of the vote than they held previously.
The question, therefore, must be asked as to how the media, the pollsters and the campaigners got predictions so very wrong. As the bloodletting and blame games begin in Britain, one thing that is unlikely to be discussed openly is the arrogance of the Left and their supporters. For weeks, my Facebook page has been filled with my Labour Party supporting friends pushing hard for their candidates. The debate was vibrant and important. However, as the day of the election drew closer, the rhetoric grew more hostile and the proclamations that they would win this or that seat became ever louder. The polls kept showing the leading parties being neck and neck in the race. This morning I woke up to see that, not only, had Labour not won the election, but that the Conservatives had actually increased the size of their vote, the number of seats and possible even won a small majority. Was everyone wrong?
No, everyone was not wrong. What we witnessed in the campaign was the loud minority of campaigners and activists when what actually counts is the silent majority. No one paid attention to them. Elections are not won by those who shout the loudest; they are won by those who vote – namely the people. The electorate are not stupid and actually feel very put out when they are treated as such. It may have been seen as a major coup by Ed Miliband to be seen with Russell Brand and gaining his support, but it actually worked against him. Who is Russell Brand to tell us who to vote for? And why am I wrong because I don’t agree with him? The same was the case in Israel where large masses of the electorate were seemingly simply ignored from the equation. The V15 campaign concentrated on ejecting Netanyahu rather than working to bring in Herzog. Only afterwards did it seem natural that large ethnic or socio-economic groups were bound to have voted for Likud. Why were they ignored? Maybe had the Labour Party paid attention to them the results would have been different.
I still remember the famous night when Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party, was so confident of victory in the next day’s election that his ‘We’re Alright’ speech was virtually a celebration of his march to the premiership. The public does not like arrogance or a self-righteous attitude in their politicians, and the next day voted John Major and the Conservative Party back into government.
In both the Britain and Israel we witnessed negative campaigning by the Left to such an extent that it easier to remember what their criticisms of their opponents were, rather than what they were actually proposing to do themselves. In Britain, the electorate was warned that they had ‘6 days to save the NHS’ or that the Tories were planning huge benefit cuts should they be returned to power. There was no evidence to prove that either statement was correct. In Israel the Left warned of Israel’s isolation in the world should Likud be re-elected. Negative campaigning rarely works and in these two elections proved to be fatal for the Left. If you want to win over the electorate, then you must tell them what YOU are going to do for them. Don’t scream and shout about how bad your opponent is. Tell us how good you are. Good photo ops and sound bites are great for making headlines, but more substance needs to be offered to win over those who count the most, namely the voter.
Oh, and on another note, show respect to the electorate. Because someone doesn’t share your opinion does not automatically make them wrong. As one lady expressed her horror that ‘they voted in that beast!’ following Netanyahu’s victory said more about her arrogance that what she thought must be right than her understanding of what the people actually wanted in their Prime Minister. It is a simple lesson, but one that seems to have been forgotten by those who need to remember it the most.