Perhaps it was just a slow night on telly. Perhaps I was cheered to hear that David Tennant had lent (if that’s the right word?) his voice to Scottish Labour. Whatever the reason, fortified with only a small glass of wine, I sat down to watch four short YouTube films one after the other. It was a strange experience and not at all scientific but if YouTube hits were real votes Labour would be beating the SNP..
Imagine you are watching from a distant planet, what impression of Scotland would you get from the 2012 party election broadcasts?
Under the Scottish National Party, we all live in Happy Street among smiley, smiley neighbours: going out to work, moving into new homes, heading off to college, taking in parcels for neighbours, shopping, laughing, not a care in the world. In Happy Street there is no sign of unemployment or housing shortages. Someone has clearly advised the SNP to campaign for local council votes with the feel-good messages that worked so well in the Scottish Parliament elections. Confident, optimistic and ever-so-slightly smug. [YouTube hits at the time of writing: 2994]
In Labour’s Scotland people put themselves in the picture, literally drawing a good life: jobs, homes, childcare, security for the elderly and a future for the young. David Tennant may be doing the voice-over but real people are talking to camera and they seem to mean what they say. As a Labour voter I am obviously not unbiased but I am often highly critical of (and deeply disappointed in) the party I have always voted for. This time I am cautiously impressed by the message, not least by the last word encouraging everyone to vote whoever they vote for. [YouTube hits: 5,100]
In contrast both LibDems and Scottish Tories have gone for the cheaper option of talking straight to camera against a backdrop of areas all benefiting from their good management. At first Willie Rennie for LibDems does a pretty good job: energetic, enthusiastic, urgent. Er, maybe too urgent. After the third repetition of “We need more Lib Dem councillors” he begins to sound more desperate than keen. Not for the first time I find myself wondering why they turned down the chance to continue in coalition with Labour after the 2007 election. [YouTube hits: 124]
And the Scottish Conservatives? Well, you’ve got to admire Ruth Davidson’s determination but she lacks the warmth of Annabel Goldie and when she starts to enthuse about the great job the Tories are doing in Aberdeen (What?) you begin to stray into a different fantasy land. Is it a restricted budget or a design feature that introduces random black and white scenes? Either way, it gives the effect of intermittent power cuts. Not a good message. [YouTube hits: 19].
Whether party election broadcasts influence anyone is open to question. I’m certainly not suggesting these YouTube hits are a guide to voting results on May 3. But it’s interesting…unless I was just one of a lot of Labour supporters with nothing better to do than tune into YouTube. Oh come on, it’s no worse than watching dancing cats!