Forget the leaders’ debates – who are the other faces fronting the parties’ campaigns?
Although there has been a lot of talk about the leaders and their appearance on our television screens, communicating policies is not just the responsibility of one man or woman, and in this election there are a few players to keep an eye on.
In the blue corner, Grant Shapps, Oliver Letwin and Jo Johnson are leading the charge in terms of policy development and pushing out the campaign. Johnson and Letwin, who The Guardian called “two of the most cerebral members of the Tory team” are responsible for putting together the Tory manifesto but are very much staying backstage. No party is waiting for the shiny bound manifesto in April to get their policies out and most Tory announcements, like the recent one on housing, are fronted by Shapps. However, after somewhat negative headlines these past weeks, it may be that the spotlight on him will fade a little. Sam Gyimah is another Tory whose profile is likely to be on the rise over the next few weeks (having recently represented the party on BBC 3’s Free Speech), and PPC for North West Hampshire, and Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse.
Chuka Umunna is ever-present as Labour try to convince businesses to back them (also look out for rising star Toby Perkins, Shadow Small Business minister), but the trio responsible for writing the manifesto, according to New Statesman are Jon Cruddas, Angela Eagle and Jon Trickett. Like the Tories, the Labour party has made a number pledges in order to whet our appetites for the main manifesto. Labour seem to be focusing their campaign a lot more on Ed Miliband of late, a tactic that seems to be working with one opinion poll showing that his personal ratings are up ten points. One more rising stars to watch out for is former Director of Public Prosecutions and PPC for Holborn and St Pancras, Sir Keir Starmer QC.
The so-called Kingmaker parties are more reliant on their leaders. Natalie Bennet has continued to lead the media campaign for the Greens and Leanne Wood is radically increasing her profile outside of Wales with recent appearances on Free Speech and Question Time. North of the border, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon both vie for column inches, with few members of their party having a presence in the UK as a whole.
UKIP has, from the beginning, had a problem with picking the right people to be up front and centre. Nigel Farage is a household name, but policy queen Suzanne Evans, who recently launched UKIP’s Believe in Britain manifesto, is not well known. Other members to watch for are former policy leader, Tim Aker MEP and Steven Wolfe MEP, their spokesman on immigration.
Danny Alexander may have been heckled whilst delivering his budget, but he has been the highest profile Lib Dem by quite a stretch in recent weeks. Like the other parties, the Lib Dems have told us what is to come in terms of policy promises, but have been far more engaged with their membership in terms of shaping priorities.
However, while some faces were somewhat absent from the coalface at the early stages of campaigning, we are now starting to see more of the likes of Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson, Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls. Now that we have been pacified with policy snacks, the ‘short campaign’ means we are ready to see the big dogs come out to play.