There I was, running on the treadmill and concentrating on not falling off or singing out loud to Pulp's 'Common People' on my ipod when the Conservative Party Political Broadcast appeared on the TV screen. Despite my gym soundtrack the dulcit tones of many Tory talking heads broke through 'she told me that her dad was loaded' and informed me of every party political broadcast cliche in the history of bad party ads.
Except they missed out 'you can't hate us if we talk about famine and people dying in Africa'.
Their PR guy should get a bonus [after all, big fat bonuses are what make the world go round...] - which he should then promptly donate to the East Africa Appeal. It is a clever ad on one level - 'look, we know PPBs are a bit naff and predictable - here is something unpredictable - Conservatives caring about international aid'. Yes. Is that what they were aiming for? I just don't know. But predictable formatting is how I like PPBs so I can dispense with thinking about format and focus on the content. A chance to hear each party's policies from the comfort of your sofa [or discomfort of the gym in my unfortunate case] because attending all the party conferences and analysing their detailed policy documents is a bit of an ask if it isn't your job to do so/your particular brand of relaxation. If anything they have overly proved their point. PPBs use a lot of gimics and hooks - here is a brand new one that hasn't been used before!
The thing I found most worrisome is that I genuinely didn't know how to react beyond running that bit faster when Terrorvision's 'Fists of Fury' followed Pulp and trying to ignore that sinking pit of stomach feeling. And it seems from the comments on Twitter and Facebook that many people are just as gobsmacked at the chutzpah of the PPB.
I don't know if it was meant to divert us from what is really going on with Tory policy, make you feel bad if you groaned at the start of the PPB because how evil are you if you don't care about people dying in Africa, or - more shockingly - is genuine.
Now, a caveat here. There are Conservative party members and elected representatives who do and have cared about international aid and been good politicians and representatives - disagreeing with a lot of Conservative policies doesn't mean I can't recognise hardworking elected representatives. I firmly see this PPB as being about David Cameron's leadership, his senior team and an attempt at diverting our attention away from the party's policies on health, education, justice and welfare. I actually like PPBs. I have even been known to Sky Plus them during elections. Because I actually do want to know what the policies are and the thinking behind them. I may have a natural lean to a collective, social approach to policy but I am not a die hard and can be open minded and see positives across the political spectrum [well, not the extreme parts of it - I'm not like that].
And, while I haven't analysed this thought further, it occurs to me to wonder what the response is from the Scottish Conservatives to this PPB.
I am not in any way against people raising the profile of the East Africa Appeal. I would like to see politicians highlighting it. I have no problem with Conservative politicians mentioning it at every possible opportunity. I do object to their apparent support of it being 'launched' through a PPB. People dying is not fodder for a PR stunt. I would have preferred some policy content on how the Conservatives will make sure corporates will deal fairly with people and organisations in East Africa.
At the end of the day, if you need an advert to tell people you care about East Africa and want others to care too when you are running the country something ain't right.