How to Launch a Leadership Campaign

This week we’ve been treated to an entertaining series of campaign launches by those hoping to be their party’s saviour.

First prize for a wobbly video goes to… Chuka Umunna.

His Swindon speech will go down as a classic of its kind.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to launch the campaign on facebook and in Swindon, where he says the Tories “won their majority”.

But the dodgy camerawork, poor sound and rambling monologue can scarcely have helped his cause.

Chuka was standing alone in a drab retail district. The passers-by didn’t seem to know who he was or particularly care, as they went about their lunchtime shopping.

Scarcely had we got over Chuka’s Swindon Soliloquy, than we had another potentially game-changing moment.

I’m going to call it Andy Burnham’s Presidential Address.

Chest pumped-up, in a statesmanlike blue suit, he was surrounded by bookcases and files – clearly symbolising the intellectual rigour that will underpin what may come to be known as “Burnhamism”.

The rapid jump cuts (from wide shot, to side shot, to close up, to wide shot, to close up, to wide shot, to close up) reflected the excitement that will surely run through this campaign.

All that was lacking was stirring West Wing music as Andy built to his climax: “I am that person, I can unite this county, and that is why I am standing to be leader of the Labour Party”. Cut to black.

You could place this video almost unedited into Rory Bremner’s satirical election report.

In terms of online video and digital engagement, I’m not sure how far politicians have come in recent years.

It’s still worth playing Gordon Brown’s 2009 youtube smash hit following the expenses saga. The forced smiling is TV gold. 

Self-created content is fraught with risk. The trick is to make online videos short, chatty, natural and informal.

Snappy, regular video blogs definitely have their purpose. But a big moment like a declaration for the leadership requires something with much higher production values.

If there’s no budget for a big moment, and no time to gather a community centre full of cheering supporters, then digital campaigners may have no option but to revert to traditional media.

Yvette Cooper threw her hat into the ring in solid but unexciting style, with a column in the Mirror.

Lim Dem leadership hopefuls Tim Farron and Normal Lamb just went on TV and Radio and were asked the question “are you standing?”

They said “yes”, and their leadership campaigns were launched! Simple really. And easier than heading off to Swindon in the rain…