Our pre-election blog last week asked if the BBC’s Gary Tank Commander Election Special would ‘rally’ new audience interest in Scotland’s political leaders.  And last week we said that, conclusively, it had.

An overwhelmingly positive response to the interviews was voiced readily across social media and The Tank Commander’s mission to make politics widely accessible and digestible appears to have been a resounding success.

In addition, we highlighted that the comedic interview style was always going to be a risk for the Scottish party leaders, comprising some pretty daft questions that demanded even dafter responses.

DI concluded that the particular winner of this pre-election banter-sparring contest was Ruth Davidson.  Why?  Because she fully adapted and engaged with the format.  She planned for and rose to the banter challenge whilst still managing to communicate the broad policies of her party in a language the mass audience could understand and relate to.

And Ruth Davidson wholeheartedly grasped the opportunity to covey her down to earth personality and demonstrate her ability to relate to multiple audiences effectively; resultantly generating the highest volume of positive audience response. From our initial data analysis, it was evident that Ruth connected strongly with younger viewers.  The foresight from this initial analysis was that Ruth Davidson had captured the greatest interest and attention of voters, particularly those of the younger demographic and as a result could look to fare well in the up-coming elections.

Now the official results are in, it is of interest to examine the division of votes among the parties in relation to the audience perception of the party leaders on Gary’s Election Special.

The responses of people to the SNP victory alongside the Conservative success in preventing a majority government are mixed in opinion. Consistency is evident however in people’s views that the BBC interviews most definitely influenced the way some people voted.

As we previously noted, the comedic style political interviews proved to be extremely effective in generating conversation online and sparking interest in a younger demographic.  However, the outcome of the election has since ignited more negative than positive conversation. It appears that in reflection, some think the Gary Election Special is ‘#notsofunnynow’ due to the influence they believe it had on informing some peoples otherwise relatively uninformed vote.


The majority of negative expression surrounds Ruth Davidson and the Conservative success in achieving a strong second place, behind the SNP. Opinion is that Ruth’s positive appearance on Gary’s Election Special influenced people to vote for her as an individual without sufficiently understanding the party’s policies and the impact their votes could have.


Our previous blog foresaw this, to a degree, as a potential possibility due to both the younger demographic that the programme appealed to, and the strong positive response Ruth’s appearance had generated from this demographic.


In effect we could have seen a slightly different result in the polls had the political interviews taken a different format. As evidenced in the pre-election polls the Conservatives were in a close knit race with Labour, which had the potential to go either way (UK Polling Link Pre-Election).

However, Ruth Davidson was able to adapt to the humorous style of the interviews and the ‘Canny Candidate’ was able to sway the audience significantly in her favour painting her in a positive light in the eyes of many. The other candidates were not able to harness the power of this type of political interviewing to the same degree and henceforth failed to generate such positive engagement with the audience.

The Gary Election Special was a high-risk undertaking for both the BBC as well as for the political candidates involved; however, the data shows that for some it’s a risk worth taking. If managed effectively, by the right type of candidate, the power of such comedic interviewing formats in ‘taking politics to the people’ and winning candidates votes can be immense.

Can we expect to see more of the same in future elections, with candidates utilising humour to hold the attention and interest of their audience in politics? And, could we expect to see similar formats rolled out in the American Electoral campaigns?


Watch this space…..and follow us @DI_Insights



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