The Race to the Gutter
I was watching the West Wing last night, and without spoiling for those who haven't seen it, one of the main themes was about negative campaigning, and how negative campaigning offers short term political advantage (in that people are more likely to change their minds about who to support because of a negative message about the opposition than a positive message about the candidate), but at a longer term cost to involvement in politics because people get put off by politicians constantly abusing each other.
Negative campaigning is something which every party does - Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green, Respect, UKIP, BNP and so on. What I wondered is whether we've got to the stage where the short-term advantage isn't worth the damage that it is doing.
Negative campaigning doesn't always work. I was up for election in 2004 (a difficult year for Labour), and I took the decision to make all of my leaflets etc about stuff I had done locally, and what I would do if re-elected. I didn't mention any other party on any leaflet. My ward was a top Lib Dem target (they ran their standard negative campaign), and that year they won 7 of their 8 target wards - and reduced my majority from just over 100 votes to ninety.
I think it would be really interesting to see the effect of all candidates in a particular area deciding not to take part in the 'race to the gutter', and instead all deciding to run positive campaigns about what they would do if elected. But then I realised that life doesn't, in fact, imitate the 'West Wing'.