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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 18:27 GMT
Is political campaigning too negative?
"Childish" and "dishonest" campaigning is said to be discouraging voters according to a poll of 2,000 adults carried out for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Nearly 40% of those questioned by YouGov feel that the unofficial campaign has focussed too much on personalities with fewer than half that proportion believing it has covered policies.

More than a third say that campaigning so far has been "childish and infantile" with fewer than one in twenty describing it as "grown-up".

The poll came after a recent row over pensioner Margaret Dixon, who said her operation had been cancelled seven times.

Has politics become "childish, negative and dishonest"? Has it discouraged you from voting? Who do you think is responsible for the tone of political debate? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

The biggest danger in this election is that democracy becomes irrelevant. Millions of our forefathers have lost their lives fighting for us to have the vote. If we don't vote it will do them a grave injustice. Please vote, and if you don't vote, don't ever complain.
Ian, London, UK

Tony Blair says he wants to make politics more inclusive to increase the number who vote in elections. When is he and other politicians going to realise that the public are more grown up than the politicians?
Ian Whitmore, Alton, Hants

Let's face it, they are all in it for what they can get. None of the mainstream politicians give one jot for the electorate of this country. I think all ballot papers should have a "None of the above" box. I would certainly use it!
Andrew, Northampton

We are merely selecting someone to vote on the important issues in the way that they choose
AP, UK
Until politicians are truly accountable, public disinterest will continue. Maybe there needs to be some sort of recall process. Under our 'parliamentary' democracy we are merely selecting someone to vote on the important issues in the way that they choose. Laws are passed by a majority of MPs not by a plebiscite. This is a fundamental flaw in our system. Democracy is supposed to be 'government by the people'. What the UK has is 'government for the people as careerist MPs see fit'.
AP, UK

I personally want more mud slinging. It's the mud slinging over the past decade that has bought good information to the public's attention. I don't want the parties to be all pally with each other - I want more ideological dog fights....and more negativity please.
Roger, Whitwick, England

The problem with elections is no matter how we vote, we still end up with politicians in power.
Paul Weaver, Twyford, Berks

Ultimately all three major parties are committed to one thing above all others - serving the wishes of their big business paymasters. Democracy is dead - enjoy the pantomime that has replaced it!
Richard P, Bradford, UK

Get rid of the excess
Ray Wills, Malvern, Worcestershire
I think it is now time that we undertake a fundamental review of the number of elected representatives. A hundred MPs and a hundred Lords. Get rid of the excess.
Ray Wills, Malvern, Worcestershire

What I want is a section on the election paper that says "Do not wish to vote for any of the candidates" then I can officially spoil my vote and make a statement. If enough people do this then we can say to the politicians that we are not happy. Could you imagine that if the majority spoils their vote how could a government be formed?
Andy, Milton Keynes UK

All negative campaigning tells me is that a party has nothing of its own to promote. No wonder there is a concern about low turnout - it's not because people are lazy, but because there's no party they wouldn't feel dirty voting for.
Simon, Manchester, UK

I suppose as both the major parties are effectively the same, the only reason to vote for one is dislike of the other, so childish mud slinging is, unfortunately, effective.
Nick Machen, Beverley England

The public get blamed when there is a low turn out for elections. Politicians scratch their heads trying to work out why. It's obvious why, because negative campaigning is exactly that - negative. Why vote when there is no decent positive policy to vote on?
Rob Pickles, Manchester

How about a 'snap' election now and blame the Lords for putting Britain at risk?
Bill Potter, England
We realise the starting gun will not be sounded until the last minute as this benefits all sides under the election funding rules. How about a 'snap' election now and blame the Lords for putting Britain at risk?
Bill Potter, England

Political parties criticising their opponents is just a way of disguising their own inefficiency and trying to compensate for the lack of innovative ideas.
Savina, Portsmouth, England

It is far too early to comment on the election campaign. It will not start in earnest until that master tactician, Gordon Brown, delivers an election-winning budget in March. By then the Tories will have exhausted their fund of rehashed Thatcherism. With Blair as leader, I can't vote Labour again. Liberal Democrat it is then!
Tom, UK

Let the record speak for itself. Record investment, record number of nurses and record numbers of doctors. Shorter waiting lists across the country. The NHS treats 1m people every 36 hours - it is bound to have a few hiccups along the way. I am proud of the service the NHS gives everyone. I am proud of the Labour government's commitment to the NHS. The Conservatives must tell us how they will continue to make the NHS even better, not simply highlight one person's plight. It is easy to knock, it is harder to come up with positive policies.
Timothy Godfrey, Croydon, Surrey

Yes Labour have cut unemployment, but only by vastly increasing the number of so-called public servants. I do not include doctors, nurses, teachers, carers, etc amongst these and neither should Brown. This is the dishonesty of him and his party.
Stephen Sayer, Kingston upon Thames, UK

All these comments from people who aren't going to vote are so irresponsible. Sheer laziness, really. If 8 million Iraqis managed to vote in spite of insurgents, then we have a duty to vote. Have we forgotten that during the last century tens of thousands of our armed forces died defending democracy?
Robin, Carmarthen, Wales

With the Tories and New Labour both committed to the same policies there's not much left to do than to attack each other on a personal level. I hope the British public can see through that and vote the Lib Dems into a power to be reckoned with in parliament. Imagine a true 3 party system, it would surely shake things up a bit in Westminster.
Christine, UK

Our culture thrives on personalities in every aspect of our lives so why shouldn't it apply to politics?
Keith Baker, Reading, UK
So 40% want politicians to concentrate on policies and not personalities! Any party that adopts that philosophy is destined to political oblivion! Parties behave the way they do because that is what the majority of the electorate react to. And power comes to the party that appeals to that majority. Our culture thrives on personalities in every aspect of our lives so why shouldn't it apply to politics?
Keith Baker, Reading, UK

We should make voting a legal requirement of all British citizens, but also put on the voting slip the option to select 'none of the above'. That way you stop thinking people are just apathetic about voting. I think most people just think all parties are all as bad as each other. We will then know how many people want each of the parties running for election and how many are unhappy with all of them. That might make the parties stop playing their childish games and actually start working for the people of this country.
RB, Aylesbury

To campaign without pointing out what you regard as the shortcomings of your rival political parties would be distinctly naive
Sally Roberts, London, UK
Whilst not encouraging negative campaigning for the sake of it, it has to be said that to campaign without pointing out what you regard as the shortcomings of your rival political parties would be distinctly naive. Are people really suggesting that we make comments on the lines of "The X Party is absolutely first-class, but we would do Y rather differently"? Is that kind of bland statement really going to convince people? I hardly think so.
Sally Roberts, London, UK

What's new? Politicians have always campaigned anyway they can, be it positively or negatively. Anyone who believes them and can't see through political rhetoric has no right to complain. Don't be swayed by polls, campaigns and the biased press. Use a few brain cells and work it out for yourself.
Karen Smith, London, UK

Politicians have failed us consistently over the years, no wonder they have to resort to mud-slinging instead of crowing about their achievements. My hope is that the electorate turn out in their droves to vote for anybody but those who have formed governments in the last 40 years. In the event of a low voter turnout perhaps Her Majesty should dissolve Parliament and govern the country from the palace - she could hardly do worse.
Mike Parker, Bristol, England

Perhaps if politicians were actually honest about what they will and will not be able to do, then they might be surprised by the result.
Neil Small, Scotland

Too many spin doctors and too many politicians believing their own spin
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England
Not just childish, negative and dishonest, divisive as well. Too many spin doctors and too many politicians believing their own spin. They seem to think they can tell us what they like and we will accept it. There is so much public apathy which is indicated by the poor turn out at the polls. If only someone would stand up and say "Yes, I got it wrong, I've learnt from that and will make sure I don't do it again".
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England

This is the first general election I'll be able to vote in, as is the case with many other young people. The campaign thus far has indeed been childish and barley skimmed the surface of serious issues. The blame is shared by politicians and the media. It isn't the public's fault that complex issues are boiled down to over-simplistic slogans and lies.
Iuan Houzami, Plymouth

Politics has long been short on commitment, promises and honesty. This has to be said for all the main parties. Over the last 20 years standards have slipped, and the differences between policies have all but disappeared. Is there no wonder why the electorate are disillusioned? It's not their "pledges" that worry me - it's the areas that are not mentioned which do!
Clive, Woking

We get the politicians we deserve
Andy Crick, Oxfordshire, UK
People complain that politics is boring but when politicians attempt to spice things up or simplify their message, people complain about this. The best that can be said is that we get the politicians we deserve.
Andy Crick, Oxfordshire, UK

As a child born in the mid 70's, I don't remember politics being anything other than "childish, negative and dishonest". I'll vote for the party who I believe will help me to give my son the best chances in the next 5 years.
Pauline Yates, Kesgrave, England

Well obviously we're adopting the American approach of smearing each other rather than focusing on what each party will deliver. Politics is now just a matter of spin and who spins best. Sadly, I think most politicians have forgotten what the point of their job is and just concentrate on hanging on to their position no matter what and making the opposition look silly.
Nick, Reading, UK

The key reason for all the daft stuff is the lack of difference between New Labour and the Tories. On most major issues for all they throw mud at each other their policies are fundamentally similar: support for war and privatisation and competing to look 'tough' on crime and immigration. To be fair to the Lib Dems at least they stand up for actual liberal values, fair trials and civil liberties. But what many of us really want is a party to articulate the old values of peace and social and economic justice that Labour used to stand for. The best hope seems to be a breakthrough for Respect or the Greens (or both!)
Ben Drake, York, UK

When will we see an end to sniping and a move to positive campaigning as opposed to the "vote for us because we're less bad than the other party" mentality that is endemic in British politics - let's see some vision, honesty and integrity for once - it would certainly make an interesting change
Simon, Bristol, England

Most people in this country know who they are going to vote for, but rarely know why. Political types need to spend less time throwing toys at each other and more time coming up with radical solutions to the down points of British society, in accordance with the line of their party.
Jack, Milton, UK

As voters and taxpayers we should demand more accountability and value for money from our politicians
Ron Cartmale, Stoke, UK
All this mud-slinging is a ploy to take the voters eye of the fact that neither party have any real polices to offer and to hide the fact that they have failed to address any of the real issues that have not been solved in the 35 years that I have been voting. Politics in this country is the same as the story of the king's new clothes, whereby only but a fool would fail to see the positive progress that their polices have made. In fact they have made so much positive progress that they have to promise to tackle the same issues that they promised to tackle at the last election and the one before that. I guess I must a fool, as I see through their deceit, and I am probably not alone in this thinking, which is why election turn outs have dropped from over 70% to just over 40%. As voters and taxpayers we should demand more accountability and value for money from our politicians because at the moment what they are doing leaves much to be desired.
Ron Cartmale, Stoke, UK

I think it's a European problem - in every campaign, it's more about attack on a person, than policy. In the end, at least I will speak for France, people don't know who to vote for - all the parties look the same, and people tend to vote for the "extreme", i.e. far right or far left parties, which at least have a clear policy, that's the sad reality.
Luc, France

Politicians of all parties have to rely on the current trivial level of debate to disguise the fact that their policies are practically the same so there is nothing for them to gain by talking about policies in any detail.
Richard Read, London, UK

I think this election campaign has proven more than ever the need to have a fixed election date. It is simply not fair to have this four month "lead in" with the other parties forced to play catch up
Liam Pennington, Preston, UK

Oh for Pete's sake, Mr. Blair. Get on with it! You keep on saying that you don't know when the election is and yet everything you do points to May 5th. Get the Budget and the debate out of the way and then ask Her Majesty for a dissolution on March 29th and let's get back to non political point scoring PMQs.
Harry Hayfield, Ffos-y-ffin, Wales

What I want politicians to do is to lay out their future plans for the country, so that they can be compared. I don't want the UK politics to go down the road of character-assassination and catchphrases as is the way with the American campaigns.
Laura, UK

The problem we have at the moment is a government totally focused on staying in power without delivering any promises. Electioneering is brutal on both sides, but the electorate must vote. To have an even lower turnout than in previous elections just makes a mockery of the whole democratic process, with the government in power able to twist the constitution to its own means. This election will be one of the last opportunities to vote for a prime minister who can stand up to Brussels. The last thing we need to do is "sleep walk" into Europe.
Chris Kisch, Milton Keynes, UK

The media and especially the tabloids (which are read by the majority) have a lot to answer for here. They are the ones who started negative campaigning for the selfish aims of their owners. I wish there was a newspaper which was truly politically neutral.
Chris Turner, Surbiton, UK

Basically, it works. Ask people a simple question about it, and they say that they don't like it. But it works. You all go out and vote on the feeling you have of what the political parties are like. If you don't really like them, then don't vote, it really is the only thing that they fear: a 20% turnout. Then they would all have to change - including the media coverage.
Steve, UK

The use of this woman to score cheap brownie points in an argument over the NHS is obscene
John Gallagher, London, England
Like Margaret Dixon I am a diabetic who needed a shoulder operation, unlike her, I am a few years younger (46) and am not obese. The use of this woman to score cheap brownie points in an argument over the NHS is obscene. The Tories ought to be ashamed of themselves over this cheap political trick. That said, Tony Blair and his cohorts really need to get themselves into gear. Relying on the Tories to mess up is no way to win an election, the truth is that Labour have spent all the money they claim to have put into the NHS on pen-pushers rather than the front-line staff that the NHS really needs. My shoulder was operated on with the minimum of fuss by some very good staff at St Georges Hospital in South London. I will be forever grateful to them and not the politicians who claim our votes.
John Gallagher, London, England

The Telegraph's survey implies that there have actually been "honest" and "mature" political campaigns in the past. I must have missed that election.
Ian, Brit in USA

Yes the campaigning is childish but no it will not discourage me to vote: it is better to have childish democracy that adult terror.
Peter Brown, Bromsgrove

Both New Labour and Tories are wedded to von Hayek's economics, indirect taxation, continued dismantling of welfare and deregulation of business practice. Both parties are committed to Bushite foreign policy. The press, even the so called liberal press subscribe to the same polity. Elections are now superfluous as there is no choice among the proponents of "choice".
Historian, Orpington UK

Every election the mud slinging commences - Politicians are no better than school kids in a playground. I'd like to see politicians restricted to doing the job that we pay them to do. Maybe if they weren't concentrating on other vested interests they could work together and concentrate more on the job of running the country
Nik, Sheffield

The media in terms of the newspapers who all have various political axes to grind are really what drive these stunts. They are always looking for the next headlines and the various spin doctors are always looking to feed them. Best bet is ignore the whole lot of them and make up your own mind.
David Morris, Hay UK

Unfortunately, it works - as Blair learnt from his good friend George W. It may put off decent voters, but it whips up the party apparatchiks and the lawyers, spin doctors and advertising reps get rich [as usual]. The answer is not to be put off from voting, but to find a party and/or candidate that treats us like adults.
Tony Fish, Ipswich, UK

Labour. Conservatives. They're both as bad as each other. Both have had long spells in power, and both have failed miserably to turn our health service around. No surprise then that it is still the laughing stock of Europe. Sit down Howard. Move over Blair. Give the Lib Dems a chance to give us a health service to be proud of.
Steve, UK

I think much of this negative campaigning which seems to focus more on character assassination than policies is a direct import from the US. I wish I could say the British people are above such rubbish but there are hordes of tabloid readers ready to accept this.
Paul Beckett, London, UK

Campaigning? Don't people realise a politician is campaigning everyday of his/her political life. To think it only goes on prior to elections is entirely naive. Whether it is attending a dinner, opening a new shopping centre, commenting in your local paper or generally talking to people amongst other things, it is an everyday chore in the life of a good politician.
Karen Smith, London, UK

All we can hope is that the current system suffers such a shake-up at the next election that all parties have to sit up and take notice
Charlie Bosworth, London, UK
The current trend is the inevitable result of the homogeneity of the political parties in our country. Debate is stifled by a lack of diversity, and the result is that people do not feel that any party really represents their wants and needs. It is a crying shame when the turnout at a general election in this country is below that of Iraq, where the population faced real threat of death and injury yet still turned out to vote on their country's future in their millions. The answer is a party that dares to ignore the rules of this media-driven game, and that addresses the problem that lies at the heart of British politics - the lack of feeling of genuine representation that the public experience. All we can hope is that the current system suffers such a shake-up at the next election that all parties have to sit up and take notice.
Charlie Bosworth, London, UK

The first time I watched Parliament on television I realised most of the talk was simply "having a go" at the opposition. Such laughable behaviour would be normally found in a soap opera. I know I won't be voting for either party in the next election.
Andrew, Herefordshire, UK

I think it is easy to be overly cynical and blame everything on politicians. The media, especially the print media, have to be held to account for the apathy as well. They focused all their attention on image and scandal in the late 80s which is why there is such a reliance now on spin doctors, with an emphasis on presentation.
Michael, Hoddesdon, UK

"Childish", "dishonest", "infantile"? I'd say that's normal, surely... It's a long time since I heard any politician say anything of worth, since the two main parties seem to be treading the same paths these days. To be honest, the big problem this time is - when? Starting to campaign now, when they haven't even bothered to fix the date, is going to bore the electorate senseless.
Steve Brereton, York, UK

Our political system encourages childish point-scoring where we need rational discussion. Our tabloid press make sure that only those who score the most points get noticed. The answer, stop buying the papers, and vote for parties that don't encourage infantile campaigning.
Tim Watkins, Cardiff, Wales

The greatest dishonesty is that Tony Blair says he doesn't know when the general election will be held. I wish he would call the date as soon as possible. Most have decided whom they will vote for and for those who are still undecided, I am sure that they can make their minds up in a few days rather over a couple of months.
Chris Klein, Chandlers Ford, UK

It doesn't help that the tabloid newspapers behave like we are in a gladiatorial arena. Why can't they just report truthfully and not take up political cudgels. Reading their rantings are enough to put anyone off politics.
Chris, Surrey, UK

Politicians are entirely responsible for the sub-standard level of political debate
Trevor, Cambs, UK
The current crop of politicians are like children arguing in the playground. 'My dad's bigger than your dad' type arguments do not impress me and thus far no party has demonstrated that it is worthy of my vote. Politicians are entirely responsible for the sub-standard level of political debate, aided and abetted by a sensationalist media pandering to the whims of the lowest common denominators amongst the voting public. Until such time as a politician actually addresses the issues without reference to other political parties I shall refuse to give them credibility by voting for any of them.
Trevor, Cambs, UK

Has politics become "childish, negative and dishonest"? When hasn't it been?
Gordon, UK

I'm consistently staggered at the way politicians think that the public don't remember what has happened before. For example, we have the leader of the opposition blaming the government for things that he himself helped to cause only a few years ago - crime, hospitals, immigration, transport, you name it. New Labour seem to be putting the money back in for the Tories to cut again.
Andrew M, Walsall, UK

I am sick to death of politicians at the moment. All most of them seem to do is slag off one or more of the opposition parties and think that that will make us vote for them. It's like being back at school and listening to the children in the playground. Personally, I would welcome a campaign that concentrated on the present, and detailed what any particular party could do in the future rather than forever harping on about the past and picking out mistakes that were made. We do not live in the past any longer, so can we not move on?
Helen, Aylesbury

I get the info I need from the parties on the net and then vote for the one that most closely matches my ideals. Although I do agree that the campaigning itself is too negative and while it doesn't put me off voting, it makes me think a lot less of the party doing the negative campaigning.
Rachel, Swansea, UK




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