It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! Over the years it has become a bit of a tradition on Another Kind Of Mind that, whenever an election rolls round, I take great delight in poking, prodding and generally pulling apart the ‘Election Communication’ leaflets (read: abject propaganda) which the various parties stuff through your letterbox in a vain attempt to win your vote. Most people just chuck these leaflets into the recycling without even bothering to look at them – but I read and analyse (more like laugh at) these political communications so you don’t have to…
So far, I have been bombarded with half a tree’s worth of rubbish from the Labour Party, a rather shouty leaflet from the Tories which made me feel slightly ill, and some vaguely odd (and almost semi-literate) offerings from several tiny and relatively new political parties that I had, I must confess, not previously heard of. I have had nothing at all from the Liberal Democrats (big surprise!) or from the Greens (perhaps they are saving on paper to offset all the leaflets Labour have sent out?).
Of all these glaring omissions, I am most disappointed that I haven’t been favoured with any UKIP propaganda this time round (shame, I always enjoy being rude about them), especially since one of their local election candidates in the ward next door to mine produced some campaign leaflets which were so spectacularly weird that they got him deselected by the local branch of the party* – but despite this sad and sorry loss to my rant, we will carry on regardless with what I do have.
First up, and simply because they sent me so much crap, is Labour. Although they all promise rather desperately to “act to deal with David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis”, these leaflets feature the usual digs at the Tories and UKIP (“Don’t be taken in by the other parties…”), and some of it manages to be both prescriptive and patronising at the same time too – which certainly puts me off (“This is what your ballot will look like. Put a cross in the box next to Labour” Um, thanks but no thanks, Ed).
One point in Labour’s favour is that they are the only party who have actually sent me information about their candidates for the local elections (everything else I’ve had from everyone else has been specifically about the European vote), but that doesn’t let them off the hook, I’m afraid. Sorry, Labour supporters, but I still don’t trust them – taking the word ‘New’ off the front of the party name and pretending your leader wasn’t actually in the Blair cabinet isn’t really enough for me…
The Tory European election offering is the usual smug, self-satisfied and slightly patronising nonsense you’d expect from that lot, complete with lots of the kind of sloganeering headlines in shouty block capitals that make me feel a little queasy. And reading it is basically like playing Conservative Buzzword Bingo. “Cracking down on benefit tourism” – check. “Capping welfare” – check. “Labour won’t stand up for Britain” – check. “Real change in Europe” – check. “Reducing immigration” – check. “Hardworking people” – check… Oooh, HOUSE! What do I win??
Oh look, my prize appears to be some election literature from two new political parties! How exciting. To begin with, we have a leaflet from the Communities United Party, which prominently features a picture of a very stern and serious looking eagle on the front (I don’t know about you, but that rather suggests American politics to me). Now, I must admit that I’d never heard of this lot until the leaflet arrived through my door, so I did a little research and discovered that they are based in east London and aim, rather laudably, to “return integrity to the political landscape and redress social injustice”.
These are fine words, and there’s lots more of those on the party website. Someone’s been enjoying themselves with a thesaurus, it seems. As far as I can see, this party genuinely has got a lot of relevent political and social objectives that aim to help ordinary people – but I could find little in the way of practical examples of how they plan to actually achieve these objectives in the real world if elected. And that’s a bit important. Apart from the legal helpdesk project run by the party leader (who is a qualified lawyer), which sounds like it could be a useful project within the community, I’m not entirely convinced by this lot – and I’m not sure why.
Even less convincing and even more more confusing is the almost unintelligible flyer from the second of these new political parties, the An Independence From Europe party (AIP). Having read it several times now, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s trying to say (their website wasn’t an awful lot of help either). “At the top of your ballot paper on 22nd May”, the flyer announces in large letters. Well, yes, they would be, since the ballot paper is arranged alphabetically, which was probably the point. However, I’m not sure I get the point of this party.
Formed by an ex-UKIP member (which set my alarm bells ringing immediately), who took the party to court after he was deselected, saying that he still “totally supports the principles of UKIP” – before losing his case and leaving Farage and his merry band to set up this new party, which he (in rather contradictory fashion, considering his previous statement and actions) describes as being “not the same” and “to the left of UKIP” (so, basically, it seems he supported UKIP to the extent that he was prepared to go to court in order to stay in the party and when he lost he went off in a huff and formed AIP as a two-fingered salute to Nige).
Call me cynical, but I’m not sure I entirely believe him about the “to the left” thing (although it must be said it can’t be all that difficult to be more left-wing than UKIP…), or the “not the same” thing, despite the party website having to prominantly advertise a page detailing the differences between them and UKIP (‘Look, look, we’re nothing like those guys. Honestly‘). Some of these differences are admittedly fairly significant (AIP don’t believe in privatising the NHS, for example), but others simply smack of resentment towards UKIP. Reading their literature, I honestly don’t understand where AIP think they’re going to get their support from. Maybe this is a touch simplistic, but surely if you’re on the left, you’re by definition not a UKIP supporter or sympathetic to similar policies – and vice versa?
I am sure the situation I’ve described above is different in other parts of the country and even in other parts of London, but the lack of election information here from parties like the Lib Dems (although they must know that they’ve screwed up their chances to gain political power possibly ever again) and the Greens (who, as the only credible left-wing alternative that we have, really should be pushing their policies far and wide) is of considerable concern. The local media here hasn’t been a huge amount of help either. And I’ve actually, physically seen neither hide nor hair of any of the local candidates from any of the parties anywhere. Not round here, anyway.
I have, however personally seen the mess my local authority can make of voter registration, when they very nearly disenfranchised me after somehow managing to lose my change of address form not only once but twice (I was only just registered in enough time to be able to vote tomorrow) – all of this seeming lack of interest from politicians and authorities alike makes it amazing that Joe and Josephine Public even know that elections are actually happening in this area in the first place. And politicians still endlessly wonder why the turnout is so consistently low in local elections…
And as for the European elections, well, the Tories must be breathing a sigh of relief that most of the (bad) publicity this time round has gone to the stupid things various UKIP candidates have done and said during the campaign – it must be nice for the Nasty Party not to be the sole target of such considerable hatred for a change! Despite the obvious rubbish Nigel Farage and Co. have come out with, the continued impression in the media that UKIP are the only party in town is likely to be very unhelpful for some of the other parties (and the lack of election literature provided by some of them won’t be particularly useful to their cause either), especially if the latest polls are anything to go by.
The moral of this story? It’s really simple. If you want us to vote for you, tell us what you believe in. Tell us what you’re going to do for us, and tell us how you’re going to do it. Get the information out there and allow us to make up our minds, don’t just assume that we know – because many people don’t. Talk to people. Distribute literature. But make sure your literature is readable. I’ve seen some real horrors over the years, even from the major parties – so learn to use a spellcheck (or even a dictionary!) and, most importantly of all, make sure it actually makes sense before you send it off to the printers. If Labour and the Tories and a bunch of randoms can do that more or less successfully, so can you.
* He’s got form for this sort of stuff too. This is the same bloke who recently commented on an online forum: “Some people were intended by nature to be slaves and were marked out for subjection from birth”.
NB: No names, no pack drill. In the spirit of non-partisan fair play, equal rights to criticism for all, and because I refuse to do their campaigning for them, none of the candidates whose election literature I’ve been looking at here has been individually named, no party websites have been linked to and I have not named any specific local constituencies or wards either. However, regular readers and those prepared to do a little judicious Googling (or clicking on certain links…) will not find it difficult to figure out where and to whom I am referring!
Please also note that I moderate all comments that are posted on Another Kind Of Mind. I am well aware that certain right-wing groups like to troll blogs and Twitter these days (and I have previously had comments sympathetic to the far right on an older Election Propaganda post which mentioned some of these groups), so I will be keeping an eye on this post and will not hesitate to close comments if anything offensive or threatening comes in from anyone. I’d like to point out that, although I reserve the right to delete any comments that I do find offensive, I have never actually had to do this in the whole of the almost five years that Another Kind Of Mind has been in existence (although there have been some borderline cases). If you would like to read my comments policy, you can find it here.