There was even discussion in the Belgian version of Metro newspaper last week regarding how negative the UK General Election campaign would get. This was a reaction to the rehiring of M & S Saatchi and speculating how they would use attack advertisements; there was also talk of Lynton Crosby returning: the man who thought it a good idea to call Blair a Liar during the 2005 campaign.
For this to work the receiver must accept and recognise the criticism, if they do then the Conservatives may have an impact with this; if the receiver does not see it as justified then it will be rejected and the Conservatives will be seen more negatively. I note the media picked up on these so they now have received wide coverage and cannot simply be used to shore up support among devout Conservatives - those most likely to support any attack on Gordon Brown. It is a risky strategy and one that could put off many of those unsure how to vote. The reason is that this gives no positive reason to vote Conservative, only a reason not to vote Labour. If they are not avid consumers of political information they may only be exposed to a series of negative messages from each side - result being abstention. The problem often seems to be the case that strategists focus on a game between the key players within a bubble of their own construction; the effects more widely are not always considered and the result is that the voter is not placed at the heart of the campaign. The big question is whether the hard sell approach works in politics - I see little evidence of this!