Five Simple Rules

Rex shares his recipe for how to increase real interest in the election campaign

Rex shares his recipe for how to increase real interest in the election campaign. 

This Rex Murphy episode originally aired on Monday, March 28.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Five Simple Rules

March 28, 2011

How could we change the way people respond to the election?  What could be done to increase REAL interest in the campaign?  Here's the principle - people will start to engage when politicians stop being false.  Well here are a few suggestions to push them in that direction that may help: 

1. Let's put a stop to  "politician-speak."  All the bafflegab phrases - Red Doors and Green Doors - designed to conceal meaning; all the apocalyptic rhetoric - Elect Ignatieff and the sky will fall; it is possible to talk about your opponents without making them sound like the villains in a cheap B movie.

2. Stop claiming to be the one exception: I don't care which leader says it - from Elizabeth May to Stephen Harper - but whenever one of them claims that he or she is only one interested in ordinary Canadians – as opposed to their rivals who are just power-hungry slope-browed greedy for votes hypocrites - the claim (a) isn't true,  (b) doesn't sound true, and (c) gives sensitive people a pain in the guts.

Forgo as well: My opponent just wants to go negative and personal, while I – I, of course, want to debate the issues...That's Triple-A bull expulsion. The last person who said that honestly and we believed him was the venerable Robert Stanfield.   

3. They should cancel all the prepared ads, all of them, every one.  I cannot remember a political advertisement that isn't tone-deaf, unpersuasive, grating on the nerves and an insult to the intelligence of a cold rock. And, this relates to number 1, all leaders change to their "soft voice" in commercial... a cross between a Salvation Army appeal and the whispers of timid aunt. Stop it!

For two or three years in the Commons it's sounds like the war of the werewolves, and now on the campaign everyone is Bambi?

4. Why is it so hard for leaders to say what they think in words they would normally use?  Three sentences of what they actually, really, mean in their own voice and words - would change the style of politics forever.

5. This is related.  The debates, as we have know them, over the last three or four elections were worse than useless - all cross-talk, shouting, unoriginal and cluttered.

Have real debates between Harper and Ignatieff, Harper and Layton, Layton and Ignateiff ... down the line...real debates between two leaders with a moderator – hour long, at least three each.  Take points off for being really nasty.

In summary:  Throw out the scripts.  Talk to the people - really.  Decide the three big issues and deal with them at length.  End the ads.  Stop sounding professionally pious.  Speak often from the top of your head and the bottom of your heart.  And finally tell us why your party is right, not why they others are wrong and evil.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.