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A Strange History Of The Party Political Broadcast - And Some of The Weirdest of All Time...

24/01/2017 12:44

The party political broadcast has come a long way since its birth in 1924 - though perhaps the political and media landscape hasn't changed that much.

The first ever PPB in the UK were made on radio for the first general election of that year. The rules were, each party had up to 20 minutes and each broadcast would be entirely unedited. The three major party leaders, Herbert Asquith of the Liberal Party, Stanley Baldwin of the Conservative Party and Ramsey MacDonald of the Labour Party each made a speech over the airwaves to the exact time allowed.

Baldwin won the election and formed the first ever Labour government, but his victory was shortlived and he lost a vote of no confidence. Another election was called for the November - and 'fake news' is thought to have influenced the outcome. In another echo of our times, the Russians were believed to be behind it too...

The Conservatives then had a landslide victory over Labour and the result was said in part to be because of the 'Zinoviev letter' which was published in the Daily Mail in the week running up to the election.

Supposedly written by Soviet official Grigory Zinoviev, it claimed to be a directive from the Communist International in Moscow to the Communist Party of Great Britain and said that the election of a Labour government would lead to the radicalisation of the working class.

It was a forgery - but the damage was already done. Sound familiar?

PPB were made by the BBC themselves for the first few decades under its public service remit and because, well, it was the country's sole broadcaster for quite some time. Being live, politicians were often cut off half way through a sentence, or else they piled through their points short of the allocated time, leaving flustered interviewers struggling to fill until the broadcast ended.

Now of course, all the parties commission people outside of the main broadcasters to make their highly-professional broadcasts for them - with some hilarious and downright weird examples that are a million miles from a 20 minute rambling speech.

Here are some of the weirdest - and downright funny - PPBs of all time...

1. The Green Party's bizarre 'boy band'. Less the X Factor, more the 'but why?' factor...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPgS7p40ERg

2. Here's the Greens again with their 'Grown Up' politics PPB from last year. No irony there with them slinging playground insults:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2dNEQiHUUo

3. This John Major one from 1992 is just downright bonkers. It's like Major: The Movie! But just sees him driving around London streets seemingly surprised that not all old houses have been razed to the ground as per Tory inner city policy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=26&v=xp94BNovs0o

4. PPBs go comedy noir in this rather funny Labour one from 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2Fwf28ppns

5. The late, great Pete Postlethwaite in this decidedly odd and rather terrifying one from 1997: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyaoRXAsGGo

6. Or how about this Not The Nine O'Clock News spoof from 1980? You could argue that it's not too far removed from some of the ones made in all seriousness these days...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzPJSuAQnbE

It's just a shame I can't find footage of the 1955 Tory party PPB, one of the first on television, in which Harold Macmillan was trying to show how personal saving had increased 30 fold under the Conservatives by comparing two money boxes. However, the props designer didn't realise dimensions were cubed. Instead, he made a money box that was 27,000 times bigger than the other that could barely fit in the TV studio...

John Quarrey is the founder of Krow Communications, who created last week's Labour Party PPB.

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