Soundbites versus Socialism: the changing campaign philosophy of the British Labour Party

2006-03-16T18:00:38Z (GMT) by Dominic Wring
The paper will seek to analyse the internal debate that has raged throughout the party’s history as to what constitutes the most appropriate form of political communication. Two contrasting views are identified: these are “educationalism,” that is the belief that the best way to win public support is through a determined and sustained political education programme relying on meetings, leaflets, labour intensive grassroots' work and informed debate; by contrast what is labelled “persuasionalism” sees the media and mass communication as central to campaigning and places emphasis on the less tangential, image based appeals to what are perceived to be the largely disinterested electorate. The discussion will assess the centrality of the educationalist perspective to Labour Party strategy in the early part of its existence, that is the first half of this century. What will then be demonstrated is how what has broadly been defined as persuasionalism first challenged and then supplanted educationalism as the dominant party approach to electioneering. Discussion will note that Labour, probably like most social democratic parties, has contained elements hostile to the mass media as an agency of political communication. As the paper will show this is not something unique to contemporary debate, and has in fact been a key theme of strategic discussion throughout the party's history.