As you may have noticed, there's an election on the way. It's not one of those important ones, where we get to choose a bunch of be-suited clowns to spend five years making a wholesale mess of everything. It's one of those other ones, where we get to appoint some galoots to claim eye-watering levels of expenses in Brussels and Strasbourg for doing nothing noticeable.
Anyway, as is the tradition, this allows any party fielding a certain number candidates to access our telly channels for two or three minutes just before the news. These are 'Party Political Broadcasts' - advertisements for those parties, by any other name.
Many people, with better things to do, studiously ignore these spots. But I'm a bit of a politics anorak, so I've watched all the current batch. What's striking is how incredibly tame and dull they are. At a point when the political situation has rarely been more contentious and animated, the Tories, LibDems and UKIP chose formats so bland, predictable and lame, they are barely distinguishable from the thousands of tiresome corporate videos floating around the internet, explaining last quarter's sales peak and the recent opening of an office in Stevenage.
'Rather than present a reasoned argument, they loaded up their film with paranoid ranting.'
There were, however, two exceptions. The first came from the BNP. Now, you are welcome to disagree but to my mind the BNP are an odious bunch of deluded, ignorant nut jobs. Even if they're not (they are), their broadcast would do nothing to persuade anyone otherwise. The BNP, it seems, have taken great umbrage at their creepy cartoon being denied clearance for transmission. It isn't clear why they have been prevented from showing their badly made clip, but they can't. So they've used their precious minutes to bang on about it. Rather than present a reasoned argument for their unhinged points of view, they loaded up their film with paranoid ranting about 'the truth' and some imagined conspiracy against them. Good luck with that, Mr. Griffin.
Then there was the Labour Party's effort - and a curious thing that was to be sure. Shot to resemble a 1950s Pathe News bulletin, the entire film takes the form of a 'comedy' sketch. Called 'The Un-credible Shrinking Man' it seeks to portray Nick Clegg as a man visibly diminishing in power and influence, in a room filled with guffawing Tories. Very curious. First of all, it isn't remotely funny, which rather takes the sting out of it. Of course, politicians should never try to be amusing. It's usually cringingly awful, and while this is far from the worst example, it still falls very flat. Perhaps more baffling though, is the target.
Anybody with a fleeting awareness of British politics knows the Liberal Democrats have a bit of a problem. They're all but finished. When they leapt into bed with Cameron's Conservatives in 2010, they bought themselves a taste of power denied to them for decades, but the price was high. As the coalition government slashed at public services and propped-up the ultra rich, Clegg's gang became seen as their lapdogs. Which is certain to obliterate the LibDem vote in both the Euro and general elections. So why Labour have focussed their guns on Nicky-boy, rather than the Tories, is quite a mystery.
You can see the Labour PPB here
That said, we should at least give Labour some credit for trying to do something different with their allotted airtime. It was a brave attempt, but misses its mark by some distance. In common with the competing parties, it was an attempt to run down the opposition without offering any firm policies by way of an alternative. That annoys people. And probably goes some way to explain why voter turnout next week will be disappointingly low.
Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant