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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Political Ad Breakdown IV
REVIEW OF POLITICAL ADVERTS
By Brian Wheeler, BBC News

POSTED: Tuesday 12 April, 1810BST

Ad Breakdown is the Election Monitor's review of political adverts. Throughout the campaign we will be looking at the parties' posters, pages, and broadcasts and asking what's going on.

Pool player
The Tory broadcast treats us to a tour of pool halls and building sites

Michael Howard began the Conservatives' latest election broadcast with a straightforward appeal to patriotism - "Britain's a great country - my parents always used to tell me it is the best country in the world".

But rather than Elgar and the white cliffs of Dover, we are treated to a tour of pool halls, scuzzy back streets and building sites - to a contemporary rock soundtrack.

This is a self-consciously modern, ethnically diverse Britain. Tellingly, the first face we see after Mr Howard is a black one. This is the Conservatives making a concerted effort to reach beyond their core support.

But despite the gritty, urban realism, political speak begins to creep in. A Cockney football player talks about "front line services". A man in a white van informs us: "I believe in responsibility for me and my family".

And there are also enough traditional Conservative touchstones, such as crime, entrepreneurship and "a sensible approach to immigration" - to appeal to the traditional support base.

Unlike Labour's most recent election broadcast, this is all about the party leader. Michael Howard - meritocrat ("I wasn't born into the Conservative Party, I chose it"), a man of action and the voice of the downtrodden - takes centre stage on his own.

The broadcast effectively builds on what has been called the Conservatives' "dog whistle" strategy, targeting messages at disgruntled groups who believe their views have been marginalised by the prevailing climate of political correctness, under the tagline "are you thinking what we are thinking?".

(The "dog whistle" term was imported, like the Tories' election strategist Lynton Crosby, from Australia, and refers to messages that are only heard by the intended audience.)

What links all of these people, Mr Howard tells us at the end of the broadcast, is that they are Britain's "forgotten majority - the people who work hard and play by the rules and take responsibility for themselves and their families".

But there is still a lingering sense the broadcast lacks an overall theme.

In the 1980s Labour used to be criticised for trying to appeal to a "rainbow coalition" of unrelated interest groups. Are the Tories in danger of falling into the same trap?

Negative politics abound this year, however bad that may be this broadcast was a good effort... Am i swung though?...
Tony watt, Bradford, England, UK

I just viewed this broadcast with the sound turned off. Very sinister indeed - don't know how I will vote yet, but iI guess definitely not for Michael "Something-Of-The-Night-About-Him" Howard.
Patric, London

No, it wasn't slick and stage-managed, but it was straight, honest, and spoke my language. Michael Howard has my vote.
Julian Foster, Diss, Norfolk

I'm not voting Conservative, but I believe it could be quite effective in putting across the "forgotten majority" message that Howard is trying to hammer.
Benedict Greening, St Andrews, Fife

The Conservative and Labour messages seem a bit weak. I think, if you are trying to encourage people to be passionate and get out and vote for you, these messages are a little too soft. We need more dynamism and less of a cautious approach to move forward and improve in my opinion.
Giles, Madrid, Spain

I must admit I was a bit cynical when I saw it on tv, but when I went back and watched it again online, it actually struck a chord. I'm not sure if Howard's got my vote, but it was a decent broadcast.
Graeme Thorpe, St Andrews

It was very "wooden" in it's presentation and obviously stage managed. Also no northern accents; everybody in it came from south of Watford. Very poor and said nothing but it is clear that to me that the Tories are trying to be all things to all people and basing their campaign on fear
Brian Simpson, Warrington

I believe the Conservatives have got the upper hand with their advertising strategy. Labour are having to catch up. It makes for an interesting campaign - and could be good for the electorate, the forgotten and ignored. Democracy needs a tough Opposition. Lets hope the Conservatives do that after May.
Malcolm Handoll, Perth

I thought last night's broadcast was excellent - a true reflection of what Michael Howard's leadership has brought to the party. Whether you agree with his sentiments or not, the broadcast was clearly issues based (unlike Labour's from the night before, in which Tony and Gordon sat down gloating and congratulating each other on their "achievements" of the last eight years). Labour may have this election in the bag, but they will not get away with such a huge majority this time. Roll on 05/05/05!
Mark, Oxford, UK

It is laughable that the Tories put a black person as the second appearance in the commercial. Do the Tories really think this feeble attempt at showing their 'diversity' they can secure votes from people with a diverse background?
Twisty, Stockholm

Is it just me or has the election campaign so far been 'vote Labour to get rid of the Tories' and vice-versa?
David Russell, Newton Mearns, Scotland

Praising people who "play by the rules" is a repulsive idea, quite alarming for anyone who knows how 'the rules' operate in everyday life. In other words, it's an appeal to conformist behaviour and reveals the hidden theme that Labour and Conservative are trying to promote - social discipline. In the workplace, for example, the rules are there to protect managers and their acolytes rather than create the 'meritocracy' which politicians promote.
Stuart Price, Leicester, UK

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