The disenchantment of modern parties and politicians overthe years has been down to a number of factors such as the professionalizationof parties and ‘celebrity’ identity of politicians (Savigny, 2008), the organisationof election campaigns, representation, ideology and the introduction of politicalmarketing.
While writers such as Margaret Scammell (2014) see the importance ofparties becoming more professionalise, other writes such as Heather Savigny(2008) are more critical about its intentions and the character of politiciansand their parties. While there are many reasons for citizens becoming disenchantedwith politicians and parties, the most important one for this essay will be thepolitical marketing technique. With regards to examples used throughout this essay, I willmainly be focusing on UK Politics as I believe that a significant amount ofdata and information can be drawn from the last few General Elections whichhave been heavily publicised. I will start with some brief definitions ofpolitical parties and their structure within society in order to illustrate howthey have transformed alongside society overtime.
This is important in order tounderstand how political parties’ motives and strategies for gaining officepower have changed. Jennifer Lees-Marshment (2001) defines a political party asan organisation which seeks to compete in democratic elections in order to winelections to hold public office. Recruited by elites, the parties are a meansof representation in which they serve in order to ensure that there is an’effective link’ between citizens and the government (Lees-Marshment, 2001:13).
The Mass Party model by Duverger(1954) is the best way to describe this particular politics. He argues thatparties are formed in order to represent a collective group, or class of peoplein society. According to a ‘stratification of society’, parties created theirown distinct ideologies in which the British Labour Party represented theworking class, advancing a more socialist view, while the Conservative Partywere generally promoted conservatism of the higher classes (Duverger, 1954:419).While it was mainly a two-party system within Britain, the difference ideologyallowed for electoral choice, which was resulted in a long-term support system. However, the organisation of parties and elections havechanged over time due to inevitable changes of society which parties have hadto respond to within their campaigns and today we are faced with numerousmodels to illustrate these changes.
Through societal changes, Lees-Marshment(2001) introduces the idea of a new ‘electoral market’ in which traditional modelsof voting behaviour have been undermined and citizens are becoming more awareand critical of party behaviour, influencing the way in which they vote.Social, economic and technological changes have all influenced politics overthe years and while people have generally made their choices based on familybackgrounds and upbringings. This suggests that people are more likely to voteon the basis of a rational understanding (Lees-Marshment, 2001). This isperhaps the reason why only 37% of people can identify themselves with a party.Have people found alternative ways to make a change? Or are people confusedabout politics?Allparties have a goal and in modern politics, these goals are achieved throughthe introduction of political marketing, which is used to further increasetheir chances of winning. Lees-Marshment (2001) outlines the three party types:The Product-Oriented Party (POP), the Sales-Oriented Party (SOP) and the mostdominant one and most relevant for this essay, the Market-Oriented Party (MOP).The MOP change their behaviour in return for voter satisfaction and they aim todeliver what people want and need (Lees-Marshment, 2001:30).
As people havebecome more critical about political parties and party memberships are indecline, it is vital that parties are adopting a market orientation in order togive voters what they want and win elections. Lees-Marshment argues thatpolitical marketing is not implemented merely to promote political parties andpoliticians, but to engage with the electorate and make decisions about theirnext moves based on voter’s opinions and so on. How true is this entirely? Inthe 2016 EU Referendum campaign, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage pledged thathe would leave aside £350 million for the NHS, however, mere hours after theLeave campaign’s victory, he retracted his place said it was a ‘mistake’ on thevoter’s behalf to vote leave for this reason (see: https://inews.co.uk/news/leave-campaigners-suggest-pledges-may-not-upheld/).This deception shows the extent to which politicians are willing to manipulatethe public in order to win a campaign.
In Media and Democracy(2010), James Curran is concerned with the democratic role of the media and therelationship between entertainment and political activity. While he says thatmost of the time the media that is consumed has nothing to do with publicaffairs and unrelated to the ‘conventional understandings of politics’, Curranbelieves that there is a political meaning of entertainment that is usuallyignored in the topic of the rise of entertainment which sees it as a diversion,a separate category or politics as an entertainment category itself. What then,is the democratic role of media if entertainment has political meanings? Curran(2010) argues that entertainment is a debate over values and social identityand norms. In Post Democracy (2004),Colin Crouch talks about the positions within politics and its organisation inwhich there are three main groups: leaders, advisors and lobbyists. It is saidthat individuals move between these roles and together creates the ‘specialisedoccupation’ of politics (Crouch, 2004). The party leaders are always at thecore, seeking further advancement into leadership and While the use of marketing improves the flow of information,much of this information and the images produced are mediated and representedto the public through the media (Harrop in Savigny, 2008).
This is not to saythat the public are effected by everything that the media publishes, but themedia, do play a part in the political process (Savigny, 2008). Leading up toeach General Election, Politicians will carry out their campaign which islargely documented by the media and televised for the general public. It alsoseems that the presentation of politicians and policy is now just assignificant, perhaps more, than policy content itself (Savigny, 2008). Whilethere is not a distinct relationship between the media and political parties, itis through the media which citizens get their information in order for them tomake their decision on who they choose to vote for. In the competition ofattracting an audience, news media are more questioning of politicians and parties,contributing to the growing cynicism on the electorate side (Lees-Marshment,2001 and Savigny, 2008). Oneof the many examples being on 21 May 2014, the final day of campaigning beforethe electorate went to cast their vote, Ed Miliband was photographed eating abacon sandwich in a café. To the advantage of the media, the images instantlyblew up on the internet, even being ‘superimposed onto Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘TheLast Supper” (Ross, 2015).
The Labour Party’s opponent used this as their opportunityto disgrace Miliband and present him as a hopeless Prime Minister, which wentonto cripple his image up until the day before the elections on 6 May 2015, TheSun used this image along with the headline ‘SAVE OUR BACON. Don’t swallow hisporkies and keep him OUT’. It is headlines and images such as these which willstick out in people’s mind which they will remember when they are at thepolling stations, it will get them thinking, ‘do I really want this man to bein charge of this country?’ and this is what media outlets with a set agenda doin order achieve their goal. There were numerous occasions in which David Cameronquestioned Miliband’s leadership skills, saying ‘the guy who forgot to mentiondeficit could be the one in charge of our whole country’ (Savigny, 2008).
Notonly did this add to doubts about Miliband, but it helped create the perfectimage for Cameron as a Prime Minister that the public are looking for. Labourstrategists were aware of the work needed to be done in order to turn theirleader into a ‘winning brand’ for the electorate as ‘weird, geeky, even toougly to be Prime Minister’ which were the words used by the media to describeEd Miliband (Ross, 2015:232). Scammell Scammell (2014) argues that ‘political communication has andis being transformed, and in its professionalization it has ratcheted up theskills and expertise needed to run campaigns and squeezed the space foramateurs’. However, as Savigny says, political marketing assumes that the’best’ use of political marketing will win the election as opposed to the’susceptible’ voter’s opinions(Savigny, 2008:33). The brand replaces ideologyas the cost-saving device for voters Fragmented parties – Candidates/parties as competing brands– Scammell uses Tony Blair as an example when talking aboutpolitical branding and the fact that Blair was rebranded before the 2005general election.
Labour, ‘worries at their ability to mobilise their ownsupporters and concerned at the depth of anger toward Blair’ use the brandingtechnique in order to ‘reconnect’ Blair with disaffected voters. New labour andfocus groups??? Talking simply of the term ‘brand’ Scammell suggests that abrand does not emerge from the marketing activities of owner companies, but fromthe experience and perception of consumers which arises out of multiple and diverse encounters (p69). O’Quinn andMuniz (2010) develop her idea by going as far to say that the brands are notjust a ‘concreation’ but socially constructed set of interactions between’multiple parties, institutions, publics and social forces’. This suggests thatthe quality of the social interaction is what makes this brand concept sopowerful.
Problem of PoliticalMarketing – Heather Savigny (2008) Heather Savigny (2008) who is critical of the use of politicalmarketing, says that is not just confined to election campaigns, but has becomea means of governance which has shaped the formulation and implementation ofpolicy in office leading us to question the permanence of marketing as astrategy. The concept of a ‘permanent campaigned’ (term initially used byBlumenthal, 1980) suggests that marketing is a continual process, not justconfined within the formally designated campaigns. For example, in May 1997,following the victory of the Labour Party, Tony Blair announced, ‘now startsthe campaign for the next election’. Savigny is not arguing against the use of marketing per se,but that marketing strategies have become dominant above all else. (page112)Theidea of voters and customers and politics as something which can be purchasedcompletely changes its nature- can be discarded easily, requires no loyalty,engagement or long-term commitment.s To reclaim politics into the political sphere, discussionand debate need to move beyond the language of the marketplace. Politics takesplace in a densely structured social, economic, political and technologicalenvironment and political actors respond to changes in technology, adaptingtheir style to developments in the media (Savigny, 2008:4).
This goes againstthe idea of the market-oriented party which is believed to serve the generalpublic their wants and needs. Politicians operate in a context bounded byneoliberal thinking about both the utility of markets and the way in whichdemocracy and society more broadly is organised. For advocates of politicalmarketing, this is democractising and empowering, however, in this criticalsense, the use of this marketing reveals concern on the characters ofcontemporary democracy. It assumed that consumers impact the process of producingthe product in which their wants and needs are accommodated. The idea of theconsumers being involved in the production of the product is beneficial for theparty as they are more likely to promote it. However, in this process, there isan element of manipulation as an organisation may ‘seek to shape those wantsand needs’ which Savigny calls ‘preference shaping’ (2008:37). Parties andpoliticians will go to certain lengths of shaping voter’s beliefs in order tobenefit their interests.
This presents an unequal relationship between thepolitical actors and citizens, in which marketing is used in a manipulative andpersuasive in order to influence opinions. Going back to the example of Nigel Farage andhis empty promise of the £350 million going towards the NHS. Most of the peoplethat voted to leave the EU, would have voted just for this reason. This is aninstance in which political marketing went too far, and while the leavecampaign ultimately won the EU referendum, a large amount of people will regrettheir choice and lose trust with these politicians. Political actors, therefore, employ marketing strategiesduring their campaigns in order to win elections using marketing contributes tothe depoliticisation (Savigny ??) of the political process, making it more of aconsumer/prosumer situation. While the voter turnout has been lower than usual,does this actually mean that people are becoming disenchanted by modern partiesand politicians? Political actors are clever in their strategies and incommunicating their ideas (product) to voters (customers) through ….Preferenceshaping/repeating the same phrases Political actors would adopt ideas and techniques consistentwith this context they are in Political activity regarded as analogous to that of abusiness – political actors/parties/candidates are assumed to be operating in amarketplace with the notion that that voters act as consumers and theirelectorate vote for a party being a purchase of a political product.
Savigny rejects the normative claim that suggest that’political marketing makes parties more democratic by rendering them moreresponsive to voters’ demands’ which in turn enhances democracy(Lees-Marshment, 2001:225,228). This means that parties are able to achievetheir goals while voters benefit from a great opportunity to participate in theprocess. However Savigny refutes these merely to assumptions and wants to focuson the broader implications of applying marketing to politics. The so called ‘dumbing down’ of politics has largely beenattributed to the emergence and development of new media (Savigny, 2008:104).In their bid to attract as wide an audience as possible, and it seems thattraditional press med9a is trying to compete with new media and its ability tobe updated 24/7. Savigny argues that market demand for traditional media hasled to pressure being put upon politicians in order to provide them withcontent that will gain an audience, hence the rise in photo opportunities whichwe have seen with Ed Miliband eating his bacon sandwich which could be arguedto be the reason he was not elected as Prime Minister in 2015.
Therefore,politicians are always aiming for a friendly relationship with the media inorder to prevent this. med People can be easily manipulated through the mediaand these marketing strategies put in placeInterest groups, new social movements and the myriadorganisations of civil society are also believed to be ‘essential components ofcontemporary democracy’ (Curran, 2010:78). They monitor power-holders, seek toinfluence public policy and represent different constituencies. They are a keymeans by which ‘ordinary citizens’ can advance different, and often inopposition to contending agendas, opinions, values and solutions (Curran,2010). With the existence of groups like this in society, citizens are findingother ways to voice their opinions. Those who no longer have faith inpoliticians and political parties fine that new social movements are far moreefficient in the process of making a change to society. While Ed Miliband was a professional politician, he did notlike television The conceptual linkage between the material realm, of achanging social, political and technological environment, characterised bymalaise, and the ideational context dominated by ideas in the relation to theutility of marketing.
< for conclusion. Due to the nature of society and itsongoing social, technological changes, it is fair to say that politicalmarketing is important for electoral campaigns in order to win over the generalpublic. However, the way in which it is used changes the character of politicsin general and lack of trust in politicians. This brings all kinds of confusionand dynamics to the topic. While this essay has listed a number of reasons forcitizens becoming more disenchanted by politicians and modern parties, the mostimportant one for which I believe plays a part in all of the reasons I havelisted is the role of political marketing and the strategic ways