A couple of nights ago, I decided to have a little gander at the new election broadcasts to see what they had in store for us this time round. Since I first became interested in politics, I quickly became a fan of election broadcasts as they drew on the relationship between the media and politics and portrayed how media could be employed to engage the audience in emotional, humorous and sometimes even theatrical ways. However, sometimes these broadcasts can have a tendency to patronise — and I strongly feel that by using children as a voice for their own political gain is one way in which they do this. Over the year, most parties have used children in their broadcasts, however a certain broadcast that stands out from the crowd came from the Green Party.
A couple of years ago, they made a funny (and it really was funny, I urge you to YouTube it) broadcast titled #GrownUpPolitics, in which they used five-year-olds to mimic well known political leaders including the likes of Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan, Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn. As mentioned before, the humour was evident, but after a few moments I soon began to think about the underlying irony that was hard to ignore — the message was that the party wanted to be taken seriously in the political world, and yet they had to resort to political satire in order to convey this message. The broadcast has reached hundreds of thousands of views since it launched, so I do wonder if employing this tactic had been a good strategic decision for them or whether it was just a way to score political points in a more pathetic way like many of the political parities are doing now. I began reading the comments some had left …’Green party would be the “special” kid, eating glue’ and ‘this is one of the best examples of hypocrisy. You talk about how other politicians are busy insulting each other, by making an insulting video’. So obviously, many people were not convinced that the Greens were a party to be taken seriously in the world of #GrownUpPolitics.
After witnessing the Greens, I became curious to see whether Labour had ever done anything similar — and so I began searching through their broadcasts and found one from 1997 that too had once used children. A prominent one features a father walking with his daughter on a rainy day after they have to take a trip to the hospital due to her broken arm, which had caused him to miss out on voting. They then both manage to flag down a cab with the late Pete Postlethwaite as their driver, who stated how bad it would be if the Tories got in again. Pete went on to discuss the education system under the Tories, and the clip then cut to show children in an overcrowded classroom misbehaving. Twenty years on, the party has a new leader who has kept Blair’s notion of education for all. Their recent broadcast for the snap election shows a classroom full of young children asking the teacher about cuts to education and funding. This seemed a tad far-fetched for me — young children generally would never think to ask such questions, and the audience quickly picked up on this judging from the YouTube comments:
‘Absolutely dreadful and the Conservatives have always put more into education. Also, is it morally right to brainwash little children in such an appalling way? ‘
But is the Labour Party successful when it comes to education? Tony Blair’s team did have some successes; however, they also had some failures — such as truancy levels not going down, and the increase in tuition fees. Therefore, this could be the reason why Corbyn is doing all he can to get voters on his side because he knows that parents and guardians do not trust him much when it comes to educational policies.
The Tories haven’t used children in their most recent broadcast but this doesn’t mean they haven’t in the past. One from a few years back shows smiley, happy children with their parents and cuts to a clip of David Cameron sitting with some kids at the end. This was a clever media ploy, as children are often used as a tool to strike emotion in the audience — and by using them towards the end, this has a better chance of resonating with the audience.
A fairly recent broadcast from the Lib Dems (2015) shows a teenager with her headphones in, listening to a radio interview with Nick Clegg who is stating how the country needs them in government to ensure a centrist viewpoint. Personally, I think the teenager was used to try and circumvent the negative impression that was left in the minds of young people following their volte-face on tuition fees. Despite Clegg apologising, it was obvious that this broadcast was trying to do everything it could to get young people on their side again. However, even such a well-directed broadcast could not save them, causing them to lose a significant number of seats. An extraordinary amount of comments were left on this video, one of the funniest being, ‘just hope that young girl doesn’t want to go to uni …’. I feel as though this comment resembles everything that Clegg did not wish to happen. Let’s just hope that this girl’s acting career wasn’t over after associating with the sorry Lib Dems!
British National Party
After viewing the PPBs of the mainstream political parties, I then did a search on You Tube to see if the British National Party had used children in their recent PPB. I came across one that was actually banned from public viewing due to the racial hatred it showed. They did a cartoon version with a young girl’s voice singing a song to narrate their PPB. The song was mostly about how Britain is being taken over by immigrants and Muslims, while British people are being left out. It is clear that they had used a little girl’s voice in order to make the audience feel guilty about certain events, such as the Rochdale scandal investigated in 2010. However, given that the entire PPB really pushed the limits of Ofcom regulations, it was never aired on mainstream TV.
Nick Lowles, a member of an anti-fascist group known as ‘Hope Not Hate’ commented, ‘This is a desperate attempt at publicity by a party with no profile and no platform’. He further called the clip, ‘clearly the most provocative thing they have ever done’. Maybe another tactic is needed to display their message; such as the leader of the party hanging from a tree while answering questions as to why he should be elected!
With all these PPBs, it is clear that political parties will use children to deliver their messages because children are apt material for propaganda. Their face can depict pure innocence regardless of whether they are portraying a happy or sad character. The main reason however why political parties use children, is because they are the next generation and in any political debate the subject of posterity will always come up, whether the topic is on education or the financial crash. But, it is also wise to acknowledge that children should not be used as a tool, especially in an abusive or patronizing way, if the aim is to get people’s attention!