There’s nothing wrong with negative campaigning in an election. If you think your opponents would damage the country, then you should point it out. What’s wrong with negative campaigning is when it’s the only sort of campaigning you’re doing, or when the balance appears to be tipping in its favour in terms of your key messages and big attention-seeking posters.
The Tories are currently facing accusations that they are doing too much negative campaigning, and so today David Cameron tried to defend that campaign when he appeared on Sky's Murnaghan programme. He said:
‘And to me, people talk about this campaign, there’s nothing more positive than saying to people: let’s get another two million jobs, let’s fund another three million apprenticeships, let’s let you keep more of your own money to spend as you choose, let’s build those homes that you want to live in, let’s make sure there’s good schools for your children. That is the most positive vision there could possibly be.’
That is a very positive vision, but it’s not the one the Tories seem to be pursuing with nearly as much aggression as they are the negative message about a Labour-SNP government. They see this message as being very effective with a number of groups, particularly those who might vote Ukip, but instead transfer their grievance with Europe to a dislike of the SNP interfering.
To appeal to those voters, Cameron added:
‘I’m simply pointing out a fact of this election, which is it’s become apparent – and you can ask any expert – that Labour is likely to suffer very badly at the hands of the SNP in Scotland and that has consequences for everyone in the rest of the country because it means Ed Miliband can only form a government with the assistance of the SNP.
‘Now that, I think, is a very disturbing development for our country. Of course, the SNP don’t come down to Westminster to make our government stronger or make our country stronger; they come down to Westminster to break it up. And I think it is the right and responsible thing to point out the dangers.’
The Tories plan to spend this week talking about the economy, which, as James says, gives them plenty of opportunities to mention the SNP. It will be interesting to see how much of that economy chat is negative references to what Labour would do, and how much of it is upbeat messages about what the Tories have achieved so far and what their vision is.