Useful Notes: Party Political Broadcasts
A broadcast for a political party.
This is John Major's kettle. This is the kettle that will be in the kitchen of the most powerful man in the country... if you vote Conservative. And this is Tony Blair's kettle. You can trust Tony Blair's kettle. You can trust Tony Blair.
— Rory Bremner's take on the 1997 party election broadcasts.
Unlike in the United States, in Britain politicians and political parties are not allowed to buy advertising time on TV. Instead, political parties are allocated a strictly limited number of free five and ten minute slots on TV per year, which they can use to get their message across to the nation. In the televisual dark age before 1982, when there were only three television channels, PPB's were scheduled simultaneously on all channels so there was no escape from the tedium; nowadays PPBs are shown on all the major terrestrial channels, but at different times so if you are particularly unlucky you may see the same message several times. Related phenomena are the Party Election Broadcasts which go out nightly during the three weeks or so of a General Election campaign- each party gets a number of PEBs dependent on how well it polled in the previous election and how many candidates it's putting up, so the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties may each get 4 or 5 PEBs in a campaign, while the British National Party, UK Independence Party, or the Official Monster Raving Looney Party only get one. Because the parties are not involved in a futile arms race to increase advertising in competition with their rivals, this system means that British politics is less dependent on campaign contributions.
Common times for PPBs are:
- Before local elections
- Just after the spring Budget and the autumn "Pre-Budget Report"
- After the Queens' Speech.
Almost every last advertising trope can be found here. But all in all what you have is the appropriate leader saying general things in a likable tone
in front of a montage of little kids, pensioners, single mothers and emergency services personnel
saying how the party is the best thing since sliced bread.
Often the only way to tell apart the opposition broadcasts is to look at the title, save the far right parties.
The third dullest thing to be routinely shown on British television, after the budget speech and Points Of View
. Famously, a 1992 PEB from the Conservative Party featuring then PM John Major descended into Narm
as he went back to the area of London where he grew up, and was less a fish out of water than a fish in deep space. He still won, however.
One very ridiculous Labour PEB in 2005 was directed by Anthony Minghella
(of The English Patient
fame) and consisted of lots of soft focus shots of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown professing how well they worked together and really loved each other and so on and so forth - the Ho Yay
was immediately jumped on and mocked into the ground. (YouTube clip
of it on Have I Got News for You
). Andrew Rawnsley, author of End of the Party
, joked that it took an editor of Minghella's skill to actually present Blair and Brown as friends, given that by then their relationship had collapsed into more or less open feuding.
John Cleese, however, made an intentionally ridiculous 1987 broadcast
for the SDP/Liberal alliance, the predecessor to today's Liberal Democrats.