“Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them” as the saying goes. The accuracy of this statement is something that’s up for debate. But one thing that can’t be denied is there have been some pretty big blunders made during election campaigns over the years.
There are countless examples of both governments and oppositions putting their foot in it quite spectacularly in the past. So as the battle lines are drawn for the 2015 UK General Election and David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg prepare to go to war, we’re publishing a series of articles on how to lose an election…
Don’t Stay On Your Feet
Have you seen that film The Butterfly Effect? You know, the one with Ashton Kutcher? It explores the idea of how a tiny, seemingly inconsequential little event can actually go on to have a seriously profound and long-lasting impact on future events.
We’ve probably all had moments in our lives when we’ve wondered how things might have worked out if things had gone a little differently.
Neil Kinnock probably does.
On October 2, 1983, Mr Kinnock was chatting to the assembled media along the Brighton seafront ahead of that afternoon’s Labour Party leadership election, which he was favourite to win.
“If you want a real scoop, I’ll walk out there, on the water,” he says, pointing towards the sea. There’s a glint in his eye and a spring in his step as he confidently jokes with the reporters.
Moments later, he’s down by the beach frolicking happily with his wife Glenys when the pair are taken by surprise by the incoming tide.
The couple, still holding hands, are pushed back by an onrushing wave, forcing Mr Kinnock into an awkward backwards shuffle culminating in a tangle of legs with his beloved causing him to fall onto the sand.
The hapless Welshman tried his best to style it out, quickly picking himself up and waving a triumphant fist in the air. But the damage had already been done. And the embarrassing moment had been captured on video where it can still be viewed on YouTube to this day.
Mr Kinnock did go on to win the Labour leadership contest that afternoon. But it was tarnished by his seaside stumble.
That clip went on to haunt him, being shown at regular intervals during his time as leader of the opposition.
Mr Kinnock went on to fight, and lose, two general elections after that.
Could such a silly, trivial event have had such a profound impact on the course of British political history? Maybe. Maybe not.
But some say the tumble set the tone, not just of that conference, but of Mr Kinnock’s tenure as Labour Party leader. Could it have set in stone an image of a nearly-man in British politics? Of a well-meaning but ultimately flawed politician just never destined for Number 10?
Who knows? But you can’t help but wonder, if during quiet moments of contemplation, whether the ex-Labour leader looks back on that incident and thinks to himself, what if?