The Conservative’s negative campaign strategy: “share the lies and win a prize”

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The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said that David Cameron has presided over an economy with the weakest productivity record of any government since the second world war, and revealed that output per worker fell again in the final three months of 2014.

In a separate blow to the credibility of the government, two-thirds of leading UK economists said they believed George Osborne’s austerity strategy had been damaging for the economy.

The Centre for Macroeconomics polled 50 leading economists, (as opposed to Tory donors and “business leaders” with an agenda) asking them whether they agreed that the government’s deficit-reduction strategy had a positive impact on growth and employment. One third disagreed and a further third strongly disagreed.

Furthermore, 77% feel that the outcome of the general election will have serious (“non-trivial”) consequences for the economy, and are clearly not in favour of the Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan.”

The Tories seem to think we have forgotten that they lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite Osborne’s pledges to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss.

The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories, who have borrowed more in 4 years than Labour did in 13. In fact this Tory administration have borrowed more than every single Labour government ever, combined. This hardly reflects economic competence on the part of the Conservatives, and that applies even if we accept the Conservative’s limited terms of economic competence, too.

Every single Tory government since and including Thatcher’s administration have caused extremely damaging and avoidable economic recessions. Labour did not cause the global crash, and the last Labour government sheltered us very well from the fall out of the banking crisis, without imposing austerity on the poorest citizens. Labour borrowed less in thirteen years than the Tories have in four years. We were in economic recovery by 2010. Labour have an excellent economic track record.

However, despite this, over on the Conservative campaign site, the focus is on the economy. Or more precisely, on how Labour “wrecked” or “will wreck” the economy. Yet Osborne was rebuked by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for making outrageous claims that Labour left the country “close to bankruptcy.” The economy was officially recovered and growing following the global crash, by the last quarter of 2009, so the Tories and Clegg are lying when they claim they “inherited a mess.” Furthermore, within months of the Coalition taking office, we were back in recession.

It’s remarkable that despite George Osborne’s solid five-year track record of failure, the Tories still mechanically repeat the “always cleaning up Labour’s mess” lie, as if increasing the national debt by 11% of GDP in 13 years, mitigated by a global recession, caused by bankers, as Labour did, is somehow significantly worse than George Osborne’s unmitigated record of increasing the national debt by 26% in just 5 years. Osborne has ironically demonstrated that it is possible to dramatically cut spending and massively increase debt. Austerity doesn’t work as a means of reducing debt, but works exceptionally well as a smokescreen for an ideologically-driven reduction of the state.

There are no positive messages on offer from the Conservatives to potential voters of an aspirational nature on their site, instead, all we see are desperate “warnings” about a Labour government, which border on hysteria, and some have veered from labels such as “Trotskyism” to scenes from 28 Days Later.

The entire Conservative campaign lacks warmth, honesty and any sense of social responsibility. It’s nothing to do with engaging democratically with the electorate, rather, it’s all about manipulating people using fear-mongering and despicable lies. Don’t believe me? Take a look at their track record.

It’s strikingly apparent that the Tories have typified the “playground bully” approach to campaigning, fully intent on spreading lies to discredit the opposition any way they can, whilst avoiding open debate and scrutiny at all costs. Because the Conservatives have no genuine and positive policies to offer most of the electorate.

An example from the Tory “Share the Facts” site:

The truth: Cameron’s ‘warning’ on Labour’s £3,000 ‘tax rise’ was shot down within hours by the respected think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Study (IFS). Despite being debunked, this lie is still up on the Tory site.

This Tory lie carries an opportunity to earn 50 points towards a prize if you share it. Further points are awarded if the post is subsequently shared, too. So not only are the Tories bribing people to share lies, they are encouraging people to persuade others to share the lies.

How it works:

Share the Facts is a great way to play your part in the most important election campaign for a generation. By sharing videos, graphics and blog posts with friends, you can help get the message out about everything we’re doing to secure a better future – and how Labour would put it all at risk.

Every week, Share the Facts users help our content reach over 3 million people – and if you sign up too, the number will be even greater. You’ll get points for every post you share – with rewards for those doing most to support the campaign.

EARNING POINTS

You’ll be awarded points for 3 things:

  1. Sharing a post – you immediately receive the number of points shown on the post
  2. When your friends click the post you’ve shared – 10 extra points
  3. When your friends react to your post (i.e. like, share or retweet) – 10 extra points

The Conservatives have already been accused of trying to “buy the General Election” by quietly raising the legal spending limit by £6.2 million to £32.7m amidst concern from the Electoral Commission over undue influence. The party has reportedly amassed a war chest of more than £70 million.

Last year it emerged that the Tories have spent thousands of pounds on advertising to encourage Facebook users to “like” Cameron’s page.

One motive for offering rewards to share lies and buying Facebook “likes” is to create an illusion of consensus. People sharing posts and adding “likes,” will lend to a false impression that the Tories are credible, making legitimate claims and that people agree with them.

Bribery is defined as an act of giving money or gifts that alters the behaviour of the recipient. In operant conditioning, which the Tories use a lot in policy-making aimed at “changing behaviours,” positive reinforcement is based on the idea that behaviours followed by a reward tend to be repeated.

This is an element of a discredited psychological theory known as behaviourism, which is linked with totalitarian thinking. The Tories are using behaviourist techniques via policies on an unconsenting population.

However, the methods used in welfare policies, for example, are not about positive reinforcement. Punishment , not reward is being used on the poorest citizens instead to “change behaviours” or incentivise people to work. Benefit sanctions, which were made an integral part of benefit conditionality in the Tories’ welfare “reforms,” are one example. If you think this is far-fetched, then you can always read up a little about the extensive, baleful influence of the government’s Behavioural Insights Team (Nudge Unit) on the framing and justification of Tory policy.

The Tory “share the facts” tactic also draws on well-known propaganda techniques. The first is called Bandwagon –  this is an “inevitable-victory” appeal that attempts to persuade the target audience to join in and take the course of action that “everyone else is taking.” The second technique is called Join the crowd, which reinforces people’s natural desire to be on the “winning side.” This technique is used to convince the audience that a programme is an expression of an irresistible mass movement and that it is in their best interest to join.

This is not just a deceptive government: it’s a very dangerously anti-democratic one. If they gain office again, the Tories will repeal our Human Rights Act and say they will withdraw from the European Convention.

Human rights are the bedrock of our democracy.

The Tories will destroy what remains of our welfare provision, National Health Service and other public services. This is the truth.

Research has shown that Conservatism is the enclave for those with socially destructive dark triad personality traits (Machiavellianism, Narcissismand Psychopathy). Tories share the same regressive social Darwinist ideology, so they will always formulate the same policies that divide society into steep hierarchies of wealth and privilege, resulting in massive inequalities, suffering and poverty, lies, corruption and indifference to the majority of the publics’ needs.

These are basic truths that the Tories are trying to divert your attention from, by lying and by attempting to bribe people into complicity in sharing those lies.

Voting is deeply emotional for many people. But for me, the Conservative’s negative campaigning reinforces the negative emotions I feel about the Tories, not the Labour Party. It highlights the Conservatives as the nasty party, trying to manipulate the electorate rather than presenting authentic reasons why they should be retained in government. The negative campaigning says much more about the Tories than it does about those they attack.

But the fact that the Tories do attack so viciously and persistently indicates very clearly that they see the Labour party as a significant threat to their increasingly hierarchical status quo.

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Related

Some of the promises the Tories are trying to delete from the internet.

Cameron’s pre-election contract: a catalogue of lies.

Cam weakness

Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone 


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