Blankety-Blank… the Tory candidate’s gaffe that acts as an election warning

A warning to election candidates - don't forget to insert your name on templated press releases

With the General Election just weeks away, editors are being hit by a snowstorm of press releases from eager candidates.

Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Green – you name it – they’re all falling over themselves for publicity.

Anyway, there I was, checking my emails over egg and chips on Sunday evening, when a message dropped into my in-box from Scott Wood, the Conservative candidate for Sedgefield.

It gives an illuminating insight into the way political parties work and shows how careful candidates have to be in this era of instantaneous new technology.

“Peter, May I get the attached published please,” said Mr Wood’s email. “Great news on investment on our school infrastructure. Sincerely, Scott Wood, Sedgefield Parliamentary Candidate.”

I clicked on the attachment and up popped an identikit Conservative Party template, carefully designed to help candidates personalise a press release and make voters think they’re on the ball. The press release – about schools which had received funding for building improvements – is interspersed with brackets, telling candidates in eye-catching red ink, where to insert their name and constituency.

 There is another bracket for the insertion of a relevant local school from a long national list which had also been helpfully supplied. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, in Mr Wood’s case, he managed to send me the template without filling in any of the blanks (see the picture). I suspect he thought he’d filled in the blanks but failed to save the changes properly and ended up sending me the Conservative Party foolproof guide to writing a press release.

OK, these things happen and I have no doubt that all the parties send their candidates templated press releases to fill in and send to local papers. And before the accusations of political bias begin to fly, I’d have felt the need to make it public if the election game of Blankety Blank had been failed by a Labour or Lib Dem candidate.

Like me, you might think it exposes a rather cynical view of modern politics, where spin doctors dictate communications, rather than expecting local candidates to be able to think for themselves.

 Source – Northern Echo, 30 Mar 2015


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