Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Differences between UK and US campaigns - Part III: Conventions vs Conferences

I said the question of timing leads into this difference, and I think it does. In the US the party Conventions have become launch-pads for the campaign. Whatever policy or internal governance roles they once had have clearly now atrophied into mere motions. Tied as they are into the election cycle this modern role for them is natural, and when used wisely can be very effective.

In the UK Party Conferences are necessarily very different. Because of our irregular election cycles there is no way to have a similar-style launchpad. Instead the Party conferences, held in the autumn each year (the Liberal Democrats are holding theirs this week) are a mixture of things. In part they are publicity blitzes, true. In contrast to the US conventions the Conferenences can be important for matters of policy, internal party politics, and party governance.

The main difference here though is that, in the UK, we do not have the same election conference. There is no similar launchpad. Given our generally shorter campaigns a convention-type launchpad could well be thought to be superfluous. No PR blitx of the same magnitude, and no chance to define the campaigns like the conventions offer.

At Boston John Kerry defined his campaign based to a large extent on his service in Vietnam. At New York George Bush defined his campaign on the issue of national security. A UK campaign cannot be so defined by the parties. Fullstop.

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