When it comes to pranks, Brits are usually pretty good sports. Their newspapers are no exception, and for April Fools', they had some fun fibs. For starters, there's the Daily Express's story about the queen catching a cut-price flight on the budget British airline EasyJet. (Complete with a quite convincing photo of the queen boarding, while waving in her signature fashion.)
But the story that almost had me was this one from The Guardian. For those of you who haven't paid much attention to British politics of late, P.M. Gordon Brown is facing a tough reelect this year. Odd are he'll lose to a charismatic, Tony Blair–esque (except for that whole Conservative thing) guy called David Cameron. Adding to Brown's woes are a series of stories about his temper, which have made the stodgy Brit appear mercurial and nasty. Riffing off this, The Guardian is running a story about Brown's new strategy of embracing the angry man inside.
It unveils a fake billboard ad with a shadowed Gordon next to the text, "Step Outside Posh Boy. Vote Labour or Else." (Posh Boy is a reference to Cameron's fancy education at the exclusive Eton College.) I'm not sure what this says about me, but I didn't really smell a rat until after the first couple of paragraphs. That's where the story gets crazy. Crazy awesome, that is:
Strategists are even understood to be considering engineering a high-profile incident of violence on the campaign trail, and are in urgent consultations on the matter with John Prescott, whose public image improved in 2001 after he punched an egg-throwing protester.
Possible confrontations under discussion include pushing Andrew Marr out of the way while passing him on a staircase, or thumping the back of Jeremy Paxman's chair so hard that he flinches in shock.
One tactic being discussed involves provoking a physical confrontation at one of the three ground-breaking TV debates between the candidates. In this scenario, Brown, instead of responding to a point made by Cameron, would walk over from his microphone with an exaggerated silent display of self-control, bring his face to within an inch of the Tory leader's, and in a subdued voice, ask "What did you just say?" before delivering a single well-aimed blow to his opponent's face, followed by a headlock if required.
The bloodied and bruised Cameron could then be whisked to a nearby hospital, where a previously briefed team of doctors and nurses would demonstrate the efficiency and compassion of the NHS under a Labour government.
Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency behind the poster campaign, are also considering reworked posters from classic movies, casting Brown as The Gordfather, the Terminator, and "Mr Brown" from Reservoir Dogs, or perhaps linking him to Omar Little, the merciless killer in the TV series The Wire, in order to burnish the prime minister's "gangsta" credentials. Another set of designs appropriates the current Conservative anti-Brown poster campaign, employing adapted slogans such as: "I took billions from pensions. Wanna make something of it?"
The Brown team has been buoyed by focus group results suggesting that an outbreak of physical fighting during the campaign, preferably involving bloodshed and broken limbs, could re-engage an electorate increasingly apathetic about politics. They also hope they can exploit the so-called "Putin effect," and are said to be exploring opportunities for Brown to be photographed killing a wild animal, though advisers have recommended that weather, and other considerations, mean Brown should not remove his shirt.
Labour further hopes to "harness the power of internet folksourcing," the aide explained, encouraging supporters to design their own posters, which could then be showcased online. The "design your own poster" initiative has caught the imagination of Downing Street strategists, the aide said, because it is cheap, fosters engagement among voters and, above all, nothing could possibly go wrong with it.
I'm definitely going to start using the word "folksourcing." You can read the whole thing here.