The Campaign in Retrospect

  • David Butler
  • Dennis Kavanagh


The 1997 election campaign did not get a good press. Commentators and candidates complained of its length and of the protracted pre-election buildup. Throughout the parliament, surveys had shown high levels of voter cynicism about politicians of all parties and a declining confidence in political institutions. It was perhaps appropriate that the opening days of the campaign were dominated by sleaze. During the campaign it was widely held that the main parties were pretty similar in their policies, that politicians too often evaded questions posed by voters or interviewers, and that the party arguments were too negative — such complaints are not new but they were stated with more vigour than hitherto. The opinion polls, with only one exception, showed large Labour leads and the foregone conclusion may have contributed to boredom and a low turnout. Conservatives complained of the ‘flattening effect’ of the polls and Labour feared that they might induce complacency among their supporters. There were also the usual complaints of excessive media election coverage. As reported in Chapter 8, the television news and current affairs programmes lost viewers, and the newspapers lost readers.


Opinion Poll Election Campaign Labour Government Press Conference Single Currency 
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  1. 2.
    See N. Jones, Sound Bites and Spin Doctors (1995)Google Scholar
  2. and M. Rosenbaum From Soapbox to Soundbite (1997).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    D. Butler and A. Ranney Electioneering (1992).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See: The New Marketing of Politics (1995), and D. Kavanagh, Election Campaigning (1995).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Charles Lewington complained that the Conservatives had too many spin-doctors, providing different messages, and that a party in government is more constrained than a party in opposition. See ‘The Art of Spinning’, The Times 18 August 1997. But see also the reports by N. Jones, Campaign 1997 (1997) and the review of this book by Joy Johnson, Labour’s director of campaigns until late 1996, in the New Statesman 8 August 1997.Google Scholar
  6. See also N. Jones, Sound Bites and Spin Doctors (1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Dennis Kavanagh
    • 2
  1. 1.OxfordUK
  2. 2.University of LiverpoolUK

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