It’s that time again. The local elections take place tomorrow and, as has become the norm, our political parties are keen only to stress to the electorate just how inept they are. Witness Tory minister Eric Pickles telling the nation that his very own Conservative Party is indeed so awful that Labour will sweep the board tomorrow with 700 gains. And his vote of confidence doesn’t end there. “They may,” said the local government secretary, “go on to even further numbers”.
Oh no siree! responded Labour. The party enjoys a thundering and consistent national polling lead that would lead it into a 100-seat landslide majority were it repeated in a general election. Yet its spinners insist that, in reality, the party is total garbage. We will be lucky to achieve much more than half what our unlikely cheerleader Pickles is predicting, they say. “There is a lot of silliness on numbers,” a Labour source told the Guardian. “The 700 figure is inflated because it assumes that a national swing will translate down to a local level.”
This preposterous spectacle is what happens when expectations management goes too far. The workplace equivalent would be to announce to every competitor that your company had no chance of winning any new contracts and will probably very soon lose any you do have, so utterly ineffectual are you as a business.
And while the parties’ reverse ramping is designed to allow each party to claim victory on Friday morning, it does them no favours and fools no one. Indeed, it has become a case study of how expectations management pushed too far rapidly descends into farce.