The Fine Weather Campaign

  • David Butler
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky


The party headquarters were in different degrees of readiness for the battle — if that is the way to phrase it. Elections are always described with the metaphors of war — headquarters, tactics, campaign and so on. This can lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of their nature. The headquarters have very little control over their volunteer armies; they cannot even coordinate very closely the salvoes fired by their big guns. The two sides seldom encounter each other on the field, either in routine constituency electioneering, or in the arguments launched in Smith Square or on the air. Each party tends to campaign on its self-chosen battleground against straw men of its own devising. There is no obligation to answer the challenges of the other side; the general view is that it is a strategic mistake ever to do so. Little evidence exists to show any link between the firing of campaign ammunition and the achievement of the strategic objective — more votes. In fact, in describing an election the metaphors of fashion shows or beauty contests might be quite as appropriate as those of battle. Certainly it is almost impossible to describe what happened in June 1970 using the analogies of assault and counter-attack, of tactics modified in response to the enemy’s initiatives. If changes in what the parties did and said as the days went on represented a response to something, it was a response to the findings of the opinion polls.


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  1. 1.
    Neil Vann, ‘The George Brown Tour’, Labour Organiser, July/August 1970, pp. 130–2.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Quoted by George Gale in Evening Standard, June 2, 1970.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Michael Pinto-Duschinsky 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky
    • 2
  1. 1.Nuffield CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Pembroke CollegeOxfordUK

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