Last week, the Tories released an absurd campaign video. The video shows Alex Salmond journeying to Westminster in a grotesque looking cartoon, with a dreary narrative voice alleging that Salmond plans to win the seat in Gordon, then control Ed Miliband through an SNP coalition. To stop this? Vote Conservative, the screen tells us.
Watching this video reminded me of Netanyahu's campaign video before the Israeli elections: Bearded men, waving ISIS flags, are shown travelling in a car towards Israel. They stop and ask another driver for directions to Jerusalem. The driver responds with "take a left [turn]", implying that voting for Left-wing parties would expose Israel to ISIS. To stop this? Vote Netanyahu, the screen tells us.
Both these campaign videos have a lot in common. They designate a nemesis. They designate an accomplice to that nemesis. And then they tell the electorate that if you vote for this accomplice, you are as good as aiding the nemesis. Both these campaign videos also appeal to a fictitious fear. They have no factual basis. Former head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin, wrote that "ISIS is no existential threat to Israel." Labour's leader, Ed Miliband, said an SNP-Labour coalition would never happen.
Both sides do it. Labour's latest election poster is an X-Ray scan of a broken bone with the caption "next time, they'll cut it to the bone"- referring to the Tory NHS cuts. Admittedly, this has some basis in fact through the continued privatisation of the NHS, shutting down of A&Es, and massive social care cuts.
Yet both parties have said they support public sector cuts, and a more sensible poster would have outlined how Labour could protect the NHS. Attacking an opposition which has a very clear record of dismantling public services does not realistically present anything meaningful to the table. It is both degrading and patronising to treat the electorate as half-wits with no understanding of policy besides "they did this, don't vote for them".
To truly illustrate how far we have sunk, envisage this. We, as a country, spent an entire two weeks discussing Ed Miliband's kitchens. Seriously. Our popular media discourse was so completely engrossed by the anatomy of kitchens, that Ed Miliband's appearance on BBC Free Speech at the same time which discussed Labour's actual plans and policies went completely unnoticed. Even though the vast majority of the BBC Free Speech audience were 16- 20 year-olds, not a single one of them asked Miliband about his kitchens. Every question was focused on policy, perception, and the steps Labour would take to ensure a better future.
Does this mean that "mere" teenagers are more capable than professionals at centralising discourse around topics which actually matter? And if that is the case, why do the rest of us feel no shame at selfishly and continuously poisoning discussions which affect their future more than anyone else's?
This is what we have degenerated British political debate into. A festival of unsubstantiated mudslinging and disrespectful campaigning. I would say it is like watching teenagers, but teenagers have evidently proven far more effective.
So, a message to our brilliantly gifted Oxbridge graduate politicians: Stop treating the electorate like a bubble of simpletons which can be scared and coerced into voting one way or another with minimal effort. Put forward your ideas intelligently and in a way which engages the mind, and puts at priority the future of Britain. Run a dignified campaign, rather than scampering like dogs for a bone.
Maybe then you can tap into the vast wealth of disenfranchised votes which are never cast during any election. As a frustrated friend published on Facebook this morning: "We want to hear your policies and plans for the future and to hear you talking like responsible, trustworthy adults, not like bickering children telling tales on each other."