Election 2015

Election 2015: What not to do on the campaign trail

With the 2015 general election campaign getting under way here's a look at the potential pitfalls politicians may wish to avoid over the next six weeks.


1. Don't leave your mic on

If there was a prize for the gaffe of the 2010 general election campaign, it would have definitely gone to Gordon Brown.

After an encounter with 65-year-old pensioner and Rochdale resident Gillian Duffy, who asked the then prime minister about a range of subjects including immigration, Brown retreated to the apparently safe confines of his car, whereupon he vented his frustration at the woman. It was a "disaster", he told an aide, complaining about that "bigoted woman".

Trouble was, his broadcast microphone microphone was still pinned to his shirt - and picked up everything. The recordings went public, and were even played back to Brown live on BBC Radio 2.

A grovelling phone apology to Mrs Duffy followed, but it wasn't enough, so the PM had to go back to Rochdale to apologise to Mrs Duffy in person.


2. Avoid getting into a brawl

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Media captionDeputy PM John Prescott got into a spot of bother during a campaign visit to Rhyl

John Prescott hit the headlines (no pun intended...) for all the wrong reasons during the 2001 general election campaign. It was the day of Labour's manifesto launch in Birmingham, and the-then deputy prime minister was on his way to an election rally in Rhyl, north Wales. But after stepping off his battle bus he was egged by a protestor.

In the heat of the moment Prescott threw a punch at the man and an undignified scuffle over a wall ensued - in full view of the TV cameras. The incident earned the deputy PM the nickname "Two Jabs" - a variation on the more familiar "Two Jags" born from his apparent fondness for luxury cars.


3. Remember your candidate's name

Ed Miliband isn't the first - and likely won't be the last - politician to fall into this trap. When asked to name the three candidates in the race to become leader of the Scottish Labour Party, he got two right - but couldn't remember the third.

Alas it was Ken Macintosh MSP, the candidate being tipped to win, that escaped the Labour leader's memory. Fortunately for him, Mr Macintosh took it well, and laughed off the incident saying it showed that politicians "are human".

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Media captionBoris on Clacton candidate's name: "I knew it was something to do with 'ling' anyway..."

A similar fate befell London Mayor Boris Johnson who failed to name the Conservative candidate in the 2014 Clacton by-election - but not before he'd had a good stab at it: "We've got a fantastic guy called... ow... err... (inaudible muttering)... he's a superb man. Stirling? Girling? Something like that."

Eventually admitting defeat, the London mayor had to ask LBC radio presenter to help him out. The candidate's name? Giles Watling, a former TV actor.


4. Brush up on your manifesto

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Media captionUKIP leader Lord Pearson admits to Jon Sopel that he doesn't recall the detail of his party's general election manifesto.

Most people would probably think it's a good idea as a party leader to be across the details of their policies. But the then UKIP leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch got himself into a spot of bother during a live TV interview in the run up to the 2010 general election.

Pressed over several of UKIP's policies, Lord Pearson told the BBC's Jon Sopel he had not come on his programme "to deal with the minutiae" of the manifesto. Rather, he wanted to stick to the "broad sweep" of the party's offerings.

It marked a rather difficult election campaign for the UKIP leader, whose resignation followed some months later, with the peer making a wonderfully frank declaration that he was "not much good" at party politics.


5. Tweet in haste, repent at leisure

Image copyright PA
Image caption Are you sure you want to send that?

In recent years, every general election has been tipped to be the "social media election". Whether it becomes true this time remains to be seen. But what we can be almost sure of is that at least one parliamentary hopeful will mess up on Twitter. The social media platform has claimed many a political scalp in the past.

Most recently - and high profile - was Labour's shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, who had to resign from her post after a tweet she sent during last year's Rochester and Strood by-election.

Ms Thornberry had posted a picture of a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside which provoked a Twitter storm after being regarded by many as "snobby" and "offensive" - despite the MP's insistence it was entirely innocent.


6. Know your boundaries

Image caption Always a good idea to plot your route first

David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, came a cropper when he found himself accidentally canvassing in the neighbouring Labour constituency last month. The MP and his team were out and about knocking on doors - and only realised they were on MP Andy Love's turf after a conversation with his wife.

Turns out Mr Burrowes had taken a "wrong turning", as he put it, to Bush Hill Park in Enfield, north London - which is actually in Mr Love's Edmonton constituency.

Mr Burrowes laughed off his mistake, saying either "my canvassing enthusiasm or the distraction of my phone got the better of me", and apologised for "any confusion".


7. Don't get your feet wet

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Media captionSpare change of clothes, anyone?

If you're a would-be MP and you're thinking about making a public declaration of affection for your party - be sure to think the plan through first, or you may end up needed to be rescued, like UKIP parliamentary candidate Sam Gould. During the party's spring conference in Margate, Gould took to the beach to write "We Love Nige" - in honour of the party's leader - in the sand. But unfortunately for Gould, he got stranded by the tide and had to be hoisted up a wall to drier land by UKIP's press secretary, Gawain Towler.

And who could forget Neil Kinnock's famous tumble into the sea on Brighton beach in 1983, when the Labour leadership election contest was underway. While the PR-stunt-gone-wrong didn't cost him the leadership of the party, Kinnock was ridiculed in the press and it has been replayed endlessly since.