The 2015 General Election – the starting gun has been fired

20 Jan 2015 12:00 am

The 2015 general election is set to be ground breaking for the UK with commentators speculating that it may be the first where up to seven political parties stand a real chance of influencing the result, on both a regional and national level.

Management of the media is a critical element for each party. Already Prime Minister David Cameron has declined to be involved in any TV debates that do not include the Green Party. This is almost certainly the first of a many public statements and negotiations that will take place before polling day in a bid to manage media perception. It also demonstrates that, despite assumptions that social media will have a dominant role in the 2015 election, politicians continue to recognise the importance of mass communications through traditional media.

Here at LexisNexis we, will be closely monitoring the 2015 General Election, particularly to outline the impact and influence that media coverage will have on what is set be one of the most closely fought and difficult to predict elections in recent times. To kick off the election year, and recognising that, at least unofficially, the electioneering has already begun, we decided to analyse the media profiles of the major party leaders in the first week of January.

What our media profile analysis showed

We have included Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, David Cameron; Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband; Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg; Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP and Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). In order to focus on the mass media, we chose to search the Nexis database for national newspapers only.

Note that the chart below does not discriminate between positive and negative media profile – it simply outlines how often the various leaders' names have been included in articles in the media to give an indication of who is capturing the largest share of voice.

first week graph2015

The first thing to note is that Caroline Lucas has enjoyed very little media exposure in the first week of January – this is perhaps not surprising bearing in mind the party has only one MP (herself). However, UKIP, with only one MP more than the Greens, has enjoyed considerably more exposure – at times outperforming Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (whose profile should have been bolstered by his role in Government). Farage's admission that he was having an alcohol free January (as reported in most of the media on 5th January) certainly added to his media profile.

Perhaps most revealing is the profile of the two leaders of the largest parties. On January 1st Ed Miliband and David Cameron had a virtually equal media profile. But the next day David Cameron fired the starting pistol on electioneering with the Conservatives' first election campaign poster. Naturally his media profile rose on the 2nd and over the weekend of 3-4th January, following this pre-emptive strike, before reducing on Monday 5th January (this was the day that all the main parties kicked off their campaign years).

The additional media profile that David Cameron generated on 2-4th January demonstrated the value of taking political initiative.  Whilst the other parties were still recovering from the New Year festivities the Prime Minister enjoyed a 50-100% media boost over his nearest rival by making an announcement highlighting the Help to Buy scheme on the Friday before the weekend.

This analysis marks just the first week on what will be an 18 week campaign until the election. It is already revealing a battle for media presence between the two main parties with the Liberal Democrats and newcomers UKIP locked in a battle to come third.

Looks like the election is going become an increasingly aggressive and hostile political media landscape – and that will make it all the more interesting to follow.

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