“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…
Look bad on TV
The world of politics changed forever on the evening of September 26, 1960.
That was the night John F Kennedy, the Democratic candidate to be president of the United States of America faced off against vice president Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, in the nation’s first ever presidential debate to be broadcast on live TV.
Nixon, who’d only recently got out of hospital, looked pale and underweight. He appeared fidgety and uncomfortable during the hour-long debate and began to sweat under the hot TV lights, regularly mopping his brow.
JFK meanwhile, the younger of the two men, appeared calm and confident and seemed far more relaxed with the cameras trained on him.
The story goes that those who listened to the debate on the radio – a much smaller audience to that who watched it on TV – thought Nixon won the debate. However, the majority of those who tuned it to watch on TV thought Kennedy came out on top.
JFK went on to beat Nixon to the presidency. And it’s often claimed that Kennedy won the race to the White House that night. Whether that’s true or not, we can never really know. But what we can’t deny is the electorate’s obsession with appearance ever since.
Television is an incredibly powerful and influential medium. When Kennedy went head to head with Nixon, it was in black and white. Now, modern technology means every line of anguish, wrinkle or bead of sweat on our politicians’ faces are captured in high definition for the world to see. So the take home message here kids is, if you want to lose an election, look bad on TV.