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Politics & Law Series: General Election

Why last minute campaigning can have a negative impact on politicians

Professor Andre Spicer says trying to persuade undecided voters at the last minute could actually have an adverse effect


As the UK readies itself to go to the polls in what is likely to be one of the closest run elections in the last 50 years, politicians are out door-knocking, making speeches and putting in last ditch efforts to ensure they get every last vote.  

However, Andre Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School suggests that this last minute campaigning could take its toll on party leaders in a negative way.  Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Professor Spicer said the effect of the gruelling campaign schedule could have a negative personal impact on those who are elected to office.

“The effect of long term campaigning is that the party leaders are going to be very tired and restless. Their priority should be get sleep, but the real work begins immediately after the election. In the case of a hung parliament, leaders will then need to form a coalition – leaders who are tired, restless and sleep deprived.

“The difficulty is that when you are tired, you are more likely to take risks and your decision making bias tends to come out. In consumer behaviour, this is also known as the Ikea Effect - when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they have partially created.

“What we know is that during these campaigns, as well as during these kinds of big wins, people tend to develop hubris and when this happens they overstretch themselves and make rash decisions. For example, during mergers and acquisitions, if the acquiring CEO’s image has been in media several times in the weeks leading up the deal, they tend to overvalue and overplay their hand, leading them to buy companies they shouldn’t.

“This happens because the CEOs, like the party leaders, are surrounded by their advisors and all of these people cheering them along and saying, ‘You’re fantastic!’ These leaders, whether in business or politics, are then pushed to make decision they’re ill equipped to make.

“We should take a lesson from our American cousins (who have much longer between the end of a campaign and the beginning of a Presidency) and give our political leaders some time, space and rest post-election and then they can begin making rational decisions on how to run the next Government.”

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