Lynton Crosby, the architect of the Tories 2015 general election win, is credited with having established a campaigning tactic known simply as “the dead cat”. It’s remarkably straightforward to explain: you plunk a dead cat on the table. Then everyone discusses the dead cat; some say he was alive before he hit the table, others say he is a fake cat designed as a conspiracy. In the end, what no one will forget is the dead cat itself.
The whole furore over whether or not Corbyn would or wouldn’t bow to the Queen at the ceremony that saw him sworn into the Privy Council is one of the best examples of the dead cat trick I’ve ever seen. And the left of centre media have played a greater part in the whole thing than any Tory spin doctor could have ever dared hope. Because if anyone has gone on and on and on about not only the “bowing question” to the Queen, but at the Cenotaph as well, it is the Guardian.
In campaigning, it can be very tempting when your opponent says something ridiculous, untrue or both to rebut the notion with all of your might. Sometimes that can be the right thing to do, but it rarely is. Usually it is best to shut your mouth and say nothing – because talking about it more is precisely why your enemies brought the whole thing up to start with. Because once the thing is argued to death all anyone remembers is the thing itself.
So with the bowing thing: all anyone who isn’t obsessed with politics is going to remember about it all in three years time is that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bow on Remembrance Day and didn’t bow to the Queen when he joined the Privy Council. Even if parts of that recollection are actually totally untrue. There must have been some truth in it for everyone to go on and on about it for weeks, right? And perhaps the Daily Express has a point when they say Corbyn hates Britain if all that is true, I guess. You can see the dead cat emerging already.
So the next time Jeremy Corbyn does something ill-advised (blink and you might miss it), those in the left of centre press who feel warmly towards him would do well to not drone on and on about the whole affair, but rather give it all a miss. The dead cat trick only works if you fall for it.
Edward Wynn says
Whats interesting is that I could not see the point of the Cameron strategy of immediately attacking Corbyn so negatively and directly at the start. Now I do, basically it was the point at which people generally not interested in politics were paying attention. All they remember now is that the PM warned everyone about him and then Corbyn apparently also dithered over trivia. The impression is set.
A side issue of the appalling events in Paris which is being linked rightly or wrongly to Syrian immigrants, is that Cameron looks like having made EXACTLY the right decision about minimizing and controlling refugees. Those welcoming with open arms holding up signs saying immigrants welcome now look even more ‘dangerous’. That will also play. Which party were close up behind labor in a number of Northern seats – UKIP
Rob Pettitt says
As shown when chatting with friends today, the ‘dead cat’ is ‘Corbyn was friends with the IRA’.