David Cameron's airbrushed poster: part three

Labour HQ releases its own version as part of a new strategy

labour cameron

The poster, the poster, the poster. The poster just won't die.

It has a lot to do with this website, MyDavidCameron (click on it -- it's excellent), which has collated some of the best efforts at remodelling the Tory leader's 15-foot election poster, and provides a template that allows you to have your wicked way with it.

Childish? Perhaps. Funny? Definitely. Even Labour HQ has got in on the action, inspired by the viral success of this website and the plethora of sarcastic slogans sitting next to Cameron's eerily smooth face. (Here's a cracker: "I love the BBC so much, I want to cut it up into little pieces and give it to all my friends.")

In what is probably a slightly less controversial line of attack than the whole Eton thing, Gordon Brown went hard on the airbrushing today at PMQs. Some highlights:

"If you can't get your photo right, it's pretty difficult to get your policies right."

"He's getting even much redder than he is on his poster. What you see clearly is not what you get."

"His airbrushed poster had better lines on it than the lines he's giving today."

Labour's home page now features the party's very own version of the poster (see above). Possibly not as funny as the Elvis version (but then, I have a puerile sense of humour). Yet there's a serious point to be made here. James Kirkup, blogging at the Telegraph about Brown's comments, asks whether "Labour's strategists have decided that Mr Cameron's I-am-the-message campaign is vulnerable".

The presidential-style poster was, presumably, a response to the fact that the Cameron brand consistently leads over the Conservative one. The obvious airbrushing provides, for the opposition, a useful political metaphor for dissembling, concealing the truth. It will be interesting to see whether this line of attack has any real impact on voters.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.