2015 – An Election Literature Odyssey

Mrs Llama and I thought it would be interesting to keep track of all the election leafleting that came through our door from the 1st of January.  We live in a bit of a marginal seat, currently occupied by one Nicky “Education Minister” Morgan (Tory) which changed hands (Lab->Con) in the 2010 election (the boundary re-definition may have had an impact).  This also means I’ve ended up reading all the leaflets in one go, which means after a while some of the recurrent themes in each of them become very clear.  As of today [6th May 2015] here are the results…

Capture

Or in table form – total items: #42.

Party Communications Percentage
Labour 23 57%
Tory 15 36%
Greens 1 2%
Lib Dems 1 2%
UKIP 1 2%

Number of actual visits by canvassers by the way is ONE, the Tories – whom the Wife wasn’t too keen to talk to anyway (or in her words “They said they wanted to engage with me about the issues of the election, I said I didn’t want to engage with them in any way”).  Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Labour would be giving this district their all, if only to try and unseat a sitting minister – although surprised we didn’t have more callers.  Because this ward includes Loughborough, the canvassers tend to focus on the town and ignore the villages for the most part, which seems a bit of an odd tactic to me.

By Mrs Llama’s calculations there are roughly 3,000 homes in this village – which means total pieces of literature ~126,000 pieces of literature for Sileby alone.  Just a back of the envelope calculation, but across the country that’s a whole lot of trees (as well as hot air) that’s been expended in trying to get folks elected.

Anyway, here in the order we revived them from January 1st onward are the efforts of the parties who are standing in this region to try and sway us with their arguments, fear mongering and rhetoric.  Sarcastic and rough/ready analysis added for some as we’re going along; and pictures of some of the highlights too.

2015-05-06 18.28.32Labour: Labour Today – Newspaper
The first shot of 2015, a newspaper with the leading story about the role of NHS under a prospective Labour government.

2015-05-06 18.28.43Labour: Labour NHS leaflet
Labour again, this time with a big glassy A4 leaflet through the door, once again focusing on what Labour could do for the NHS including shorter GP waiting time and quick results on cancer tests; but also giving some information about “Labour’s tough new approach to immigration

Labour: Letter from Ed Miliband (Mrs Llama)
The first of a number of letters from the Labour leadership targeted at Mrs Llama (who actually is Dr Mrs Llama, but the party machine doesn’t appear to know that fact – suspect it might have changed some of the mailshot stuff we got).  Again, NHS, NHS, NHS.

2015-05-06 18.29.01Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan Questionnaire (Mr Llama)
Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan Questionnaire (Mrs Llama)
In the post – in the same envelope, but I’m counting these as separate items as they’re addressed to both me and Mrs Llama separately.  Not the first time we’ve had these sort of things from Tory HQ, but frankly any student who handed in a questionnaire designed this badly would not be getting a good grade from me.  I especially like question 5 “Putting party politics aside and thinking about them as individuals, which of the two main leaders would you prefer as Prime Minister: A) David Cameron, B) Ed Miliband, C) Unsure/No Opinion”.  No space for D) Neither of them and actually I’m actually very sure about it.  Given that whatever you’d reply to these I suspect would be bent to serve the arcane dark purposes of the Tory campaign as “all powerful” statistics, these did not get filled in and returned.

2015-05-06 18.29.15Tory: Sileby Matters local news sheet
Ah, the first appearance of the local party – although I suspect the [Fill in the Blank] Matters format appeared around the country.  Topics of import here are a local Councillor standing down (hang on, are there local elections as well this year?) and a slightly interesting balance of issues incorporating adult fitness(?), road safety, and the village road network.  Nothing about the massive estate building projects going on across the village that the local council approved against residents repeated complaints and appeals.  Hmn, swing and a miss.

Labour: Labour Today – Newspaper
Labour strikes back with a newspaper focusing on…can I believe my eyes?  Why yes, it’s the NHS again, and the results of a survey (that I must blinked and missed as it wasn’t in any of the mailshots and leaflets we’ve had in the last year) that shockingly supports Labour’s focus on saving the NHS.  Well colour me…not in the least surprised; and also my cynicism over the use of surveys by political bodies.

2015-05-06 18.29.37Labour: Direct Mailshot, Matthew O’Callaghan – card (Mr Llama)
Slightly confused here as there’s a mail shot to me, of a mother and her three kids.  Am I cast in a paternal role here, defending these hard working offspring and future wage slaves against the voracious Tory economic engine?  Or should this have actually gone to Mrs Llama in her role as house mother?  NHS gets a mention (shocking!) but so does the cost of living, wages, immigration controls and jobs/apprenticeships for young people.

Tory: Direct Mailshot – letter from David Cameron (Mr Llama)
A letter to me from the PM himself…but without his picture.  Ed Miliband’s letters always have his picture, has the PM suddenly lost all his photogenic prowess?  Economy, immigration (going for those UKIP splitters), Europe and the Scottish question.   All on a lovely Union Flag bordered paper.  Irritates me when the Tory’s try and appropriate the national flag for their own party iconography.

Tory: Coalition of Chaos leaflet
Glossy little card number here with the EVIL Coalition of Chaos (guess Axis of Evil had already been claimed) of Miliband, Salmon, Clegg and Farage flagged up against the suddenly photographic David Cameron.  Thank god the Conservatives are here to save me from all these nasty men.  Guess Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood & Natalie Bennett aren’t a danger then.  Rather patriarchal shot of fear mongering here all in all.

2015-05-06 18.31Tory: Direct Mailshot – letter from Nicky Morgan (Mrs Llama)
Not afraid to have her mugshot on her letter heading is old Nicky.  It’s the appeal to the faithful to hold the line as “we only need to win 23 more [seats] to form a majority” – hence trying to demonstrate what she’s done for the Loughborough area over the last 5 years.  Along with the old can’t trust those Labour people, cos they’d bring in Alex Salmond as Deputy PM for reals etc.  Also on the back ANOTHER questionnaire.  Sheesh.

2015-05-06 18.31.37Labour: Card, Matthew O’Callaghan direct Mailshot (Mrs Llama)
Aha, and finally the local Labour candidate shows his face.  Not 100% sure that’s a good call on the picture he’s gone with.  Also this is very light on any information, especially compared to that letter Mrs Llama just had from Nicky.  5 bullet pointed key areas that tells us nothing new, and certainly nothing specific about the local candidate.  Must try harder Labour if you want to snatch this seat back!

2015-05-06 18.32.05Tory: Card, Nicky Morgan’s priorities
Dinky little leaflet now from your friend and mine (feels like it, amount of personal appearances she’s made in the literature through the door) Nicky Morgan.  Folds out into a newspaper centric montage of reasons to vote for Tory “Competence and a clear plan” against “Coalition of chaos” (now in orange rather than black and red).  Still no sign of the lady leaders.  Lots of little vignettes too of Nicky and her chums like Norman Osborne…sorry, George Osborne doing things around the Loughborough area.  And by doing things, I mean standing among the ordinary plebs in a variety of workplace and community settings.

2015-05-06 18.32.14Labour: Labour Today Newspaper
“Election Special” cries the sub-headline, but then they all are, aren’t they? Working families, bashing UKIP and immigration all make an appearance before the page 3 stunna – Ed Miliband (aiee) and an old dear (aieeeeeee) talking about…the NHS.  I’ll give Labour this, they’re nothing if not consistent on their core theme.  Apprenticeships and jobs for youngsters on the back page.  Nothing about tertiary education; but then there seldom is from any of the parties.  You know, aside from the 2010 Lib Dem classic…

Tory: Direct Mailshot Nicky Morgan (Mr Llama)
A letter?  For me?  From Nicky?  Outling how to vote by post.  That’s actually…quite helpful – and to be honest beyond the Tory trade dress there’s actually no electioneering really here.  Am I to think that cos that nice young Nicky’s told me about this postal voting, then I really ought to vote for her?

2015-05-06 18.32.50Labour: Labour Today Newspaper
Oh god, I’ve barely finished the last one!  Ah, and this one opens with an attack on the government and their record on the economy.  Inside though we have the (fairly mature) Matthew O’Callaghan on page two…and juxtaposed with a “Labour: Helping families and young people: Grandparents will benefit too”.  What about 40 something mature PhD/academics eh?  Where’s the appeal to my specific demographic?  Clearly this is the national sandwich issue with the local issues on the inside.  Also the first real details on our local Labour candidate – who has appeared in the Great British Bake Off (and with that he lost my vote) and makes his own cheese (OK, but so do I, it’s not that hard!).  Not quite sure that’s going to sway anyone though, but I guess he’s still seems more human and less party-machine animal than Morgan.

2015-05-06 18.33.07Labour: Direct Mailshot card, Matthew O’Callaghan (Mr Llama)
And now the glossy version.  Lots in this one drawing on the national Labour messages, along with plenty of pictures of the local candidate.  Including one that has been resized so badly it’s pixelated beyond belief.  Whoever was responsible for a) photoshopping it b) approving it in the leaflet, should be shot.  Very poor.  Leaflet includes some local vox pops of people who are “backing Matthew”.  Sadly none of them resonate with me, but it’s a nice idea.  Of course do I really believe they are local people or did everyone get the same people with addresses and names changed?  Yes, I’ve become that cynical!

Labour: Direct Mailshot -Ed Miliband letter, NHS (Mrs Llama)
NHS, with a hint of NHS.  And did you hear what UKIP want to do to the NHS?  Boo Farage!  Boo UKIP. Labour FTW.

2015-05-06 18.34.47Tory: Leaflet – Nicky Morgan
Same old Nicky Morgan headshot I’ve now seen 10,000 times this year.  But what’s this on the back…why it’s those local Conservative candidates!  My heavens, do the other parties even HAVE any local council candidates?  Am I going to have to spoil that ballot paper?

Tory: Leaflet – local councillors (Paul Murphy & Andy Paling)
And again, local council duo take centre stage with their aims…for better roads for the village.  Eh?  Still not convinced this should be your key plank…but oh look, one has “30 years” working in the building trade.  No wonder all those massive housing estates go through on the nod.

Labour: Direct mailshot, Ed Miliband, welfare & families (Mrs Llama)
Living standards, lowering university tuition fees aaaaaaand the NHS.  Not sure how you’ll be funding the university system though, that seems pretty much utterly obfuscated.

2015-05-06 18.36.43Greens: leaflet, Matt Sisson (16/4/2015)
My heavens!  There’s another party than the reds and the blues?  Colour me shocked, and that colour is green.  Nice moody picture of Matt pounding the mean streets of Loughborough with a determinedly pensive look on his face.  Then it’s all about the NHS and electoral form.  A refreshing change of pace as I think I could now quote both Tory and Labour key goals…sorry, promises.  Mind, it doesn’t say this is on recycled paper…

2015-05-06 18.36.48UKIP: Leaflet, Bill Piper
Honey to the B!  Oh wait, that’s Billy Piper.  Candidate appears to have modeled himself on the Major offa Fawlty Towers.  Polices (not that shockingly) borders/immigration, NHS, tax and no more overseas aid.  So only ever so slightly isolationist in a globalised era.  Huge “I’m Voting UKIP” poster in the middle – only one of the parties to have included this in their literature, although suspect it might as well read “Please throw a brick through my window”.

2015-05-06 18.37.33

Labour: Leaflet, National Party pledges
“Read our pledges to you inside” screams the cover of this leaflet…although they’re actually on the front of this leaflet already.  More good proofreading/layout from Labour HQ I suspect.  Folds out to give a bit more information in VERY LARGE WRITING.  Assume this one is for those of you who like to read election leaflets from across the room.  Or the elderly I guess.

Labour: Leaflet, Matthew O’Callaghan
A fold out leaflet with a couple of vox pops, and some photos we’ve already seen in his earlier leaflets.  Also a teeny tiny mention of the council elections…but no information on any of the Labour candidates for this.  Can’t help but feel, given the importance of Councils to resist/implement austerity cuts that this is a real omission in the literature for Labour.

Labour: Direct Mailshot card (Mrs Llama)
Ah the blues are bad because and reds are ace because boxed out claims on the back, and those five pledges on the front.  Labour continue to be nothing if not consistent/reductionist.

Labour: Direct mailshot, letter from Ed Balls (Mrs Llama)
#EdBalls?  Deficit!  #EdBalls.  Minimum wage. #EdBalls. Better jobs! #EdBalls Tax the rich. #EdBalls.  That is all.

2015-05-06 18.39.36Labour:  Card (Labour’s contract)
Labour: Letter from Ed Miliband (Mrs Llama) 
Again these are clearly two separate items, even if Labour were thrifty enough to save a stamp.  And yet again to Mrs Llama – clearly true to their pink bus promise, Labour are really going out and out for the lady vote in Sileby.  Sadly the bus has not been to call for a conversation over our kitchen table (full disclosure: our kitchen is too small to have a table in it).  Labour’s contract contains 6 pledges…hang on, that’s one more than normal – stamp duty suddenly gets a late look in, and the freeze on migrants claiming benefits seems to be a new twist on the immigration pledge.  The letter from Ed, which alludes to the pledge, says we can use it to “hold me to account”.  It’s a bit big to fit in my wallet, but I guess perfect for Mrs Llama’s lady-bag.

2015-05-06 18.40.05Labour: Direct mailshot,card, NHS life support (Mr Llama)
The first of three NHS themed cards, this one directly to me – just to make sure that I don’t think that the Eds have forgotten about the man of the house.  A tasteful heart monitor going dead motif is a charming, if powerful message.

Tory: Direct mailshot, leaflet Nicky Morgan, pledges (Mrs Llama)
Clearly having heard about Ed writing to my Wife so much, Nicky comes in with her three pledges (fully half of Labour’s if we were counting…and we are).  Inside it’s a reworking of the Coalition of Chaos pictures and text, along with the folksy local people interacting with Nicky.  Odd juxtapositioning of terror with social capital here.

2015-05-06 18.41.21Tory: Large leaflet, local people, Nicky Morgan
Big fold out A3 sized leaflet with a GIANT picture of Nicky this time (perhaps this is supposed to go in my window).  Lots of new photos of Nicky out smiling and doing stuff (including dressing as a running Santa) with the Loughborough locals.  I confess this is quite attractively put together and there’s a good balance of text and images, so this one would have me giving my students high marks had they produced it as promotional literature!  Only appearance of a library in the whole of the campaign, and oddly the quote talks about the Shepshed show…so nothing about local libraries being closed down/forced to run with volunteers then?  *sigh*

Labour: Card, direct mailshot, people backing Labour (Mrs Llama)
3 pictured vox pops, and some extra quotes – all tying into those pledges as per usual.  Sub-A5 sized Booklet format for a change (well 8 page booklet).  And those now 6 pledges at the end.

2015-05-06 18.42.19Labour: Card, direct mailshot, Matthew O’Callaghan, local party focus
Big picture of the candidate down the Loughborough market (his trade mark standard shot in all literature except the very first one) on the front, and a message riven with local goals on the back.  5 pledges, some of which tie into the main party (NHS, young people jobs) and some that don’t (communities, local businesses).  Can’t say I’d be convinced by it on it’s own, and again I’m wondering how customised this is to the local area.

2015-05-06 18.42.59Labour: Card leaflet (Doctor’s bag) – 48hrs to save NHS
2nd of the 3 themed card adverts for Labour’s NHS central plank – this time it’s a doctor’s bag.  “48hrs to save our NHS” sounds like the tag line for a dreary bit of UK cinema that I’d probably pass on.  Again on the back it’s the old them and us/reds vs blues comparisons.  Gosh, Tories are bad it seems.

2015-05-06 18.43.34Tory: Nicky Morgan card folded leaflet – local issues
Printed on light card stock and folding out to A3 size, this once again showcases a lot more new photos of Nicky and the community.  Including one great shot of her out of focus and three seats away from the PM at a Cabinet meeting.  Cameron appears to be checking Osborne’s not nicked his wallet in it.  Beginning to think that the Tory’s, by the cunning trick of hiring a photographer have outdistanced Labour in the photographic stakes; there are just so many MORE shots of the current MP doing things, than her main challenger who…well, obviously is seen campaigning but that’s about it I guess.

Tory: Direct mailshot, Nicky Morgan (Mr Llama)
So once again the Tories write to me.  I really feel like Labour don’t care about me as a person you know, where’s my letter from #EdBalls eh?  This one is 50% encouraging people to vote, and 50% reinforcing what the candidate has done for the region during her term in office (and before this during the years leading up to her challenging then MP Andy Reed in 2010).  “This is the most important general election of our generation.” she writes.  Yeah…but then aren’t they all really.  Badly photoshoped genuine signature at the bottom now allows everyone to go off and try and pass a few dodgy cheques.

2015-05-06 18.44.30Lib Dems: Leaflet, Steve Coltman and national agenda
Good Lord above – there’s a Lib Dem candidate standing in this ward?  After the 2010 debacle (the then candidate made a dreadful video that I’ll try and find and link to) I did wonder if they’d just given up.  Not the best of leaflets – looks like it was knocked up in 20 minutes in MS Office (and by someone who’s never used it before too), and THAT’S the best picture of Steve you could find?  Sheesh, messy layout.  Inside there’s a lot of text to read…not that digestible, especially compared to many of the other leaflets I’ve read.  Choice of green text on white (with grey clipart leaf as watermark) is not a great choice.  Back page a defense/celebration of what they’ve achieved in government, and is actually a bit better laid out.  But this is clearly a scrappy composite of national template with local information slapped on the front.  Does not look professional at all sadly.

2015-05-06 18.45.28Tory: Leaflet, Re-elect Nicky Morgan
Does what it says on the tin, reuse of a few community photos on one side – great big picture of Nicky and Cameron in front of John Taylor’s Bell Foundry (Loughborough’s only remaining manufacturer?) on the other.  Quote from Cameron sounds like it was written for a school report “Nicky is a brilliant Member of Parliament and key member of the team.  People know she has work hard locally and nationally.  She takes nothing for granted”…which is just as well as I’ll be shuffling one of my mates into her job if we get reelected.  Okay, doesn’t say that bit.  Encouraged to “put this in your window”, making it only the second (after the UKIP one) of the old fashioned display your support flyers.

2015-05-06 18.49.42Labour: Card leaflet, ambulance, 24hrs to save NHS
And on the final day of the campaign it’s Labour with the 3rd (and I assume final) NHS special card flyer – this time in the shape of an ambulance.  Just as well this election’s not going on longer, as I suspect the next one would be in the shape of an organ or something.  Blues vs reds rhetoric we’ve come to expect, and a subtle “Stay home or vote for ANY other party will let the Tories win”.  Terror tactics at the last for Labour it seems – keep the old 2 party system going…in a time when I suspect we’ll be seeing some interesting upsets all round in the next 48hrs.  I will say though, this is my single favourite bit of election literature – straight and to the point, plus I had immense fun going “Whee-wah” around the house with it, until Mrs Llama stopped me.

2015-05-06 18.46.21Labour: Card, direct mailshot, child benefit (Mrs Llama)
Also on the last day of campaigning Mrs Llama (as the woman of the house, and recpieitnt it seems of 80% of direct Labour marketing) receives a dire warning to cuts for child benefits from a future Tory government.  Cos you know, it’s what women as ALL all about – kids.  Nice bit of segmentation there.  Again the fear mongering approach of only a binary choice – vote for Labour or  ELSE!  Flip side of the card – reds vs blues on social welfare issues…tax credits, child benefits and minimum wage.  Can’t help feeling that as DINKYs Labour’s misread our household demographic’s needs a bit.

2015-05-06 23.19.38Labour: Don’t Forget to Vote (for us)!
This one came AFTER I started writing this blog this evening (so circa 8pm) and it’s a reminder from the Labour party that there’s an election tomorrow.  There is?  I never would have guessed after these 42 pieces of literature have come through my door, the media’s obsession with the subject etc.  Still, at least among the party rhetoric there is a strong encouragement to vote (and vote for the right party, naturally).  Bit confused by one of their 5 reasons to vote Labour though “University tuition fees reduced to £6,000 and smaller class sizes for 5, 6 and 7 year olds”.  Not quite sure how this is one point – unless somehow we’re paying for university now by shrinking the size of school buildings #joke.  Does mention the Labour MP candidate by name…and alludes to the nameless Labour Council Candidates.  Poor buggers, they really have not had any named publicity – do they even exist?

2015-05-06 23.21.19And that’s your lot; although I suspect there might be one or two extra pieces through the door tomorrow – which I’ll add and update this entry when they do.  So how does all this compare to where you are dear reader?  Has it all been very similar?  Have all the ladies been written to by Labour, while the gents mostly ignored?  Do the Tories have the best cameramen in the business?  have the Lib Dems given up campaigning much in unwinnable seats?  Have the Greens surged for real, and are any of them pictured as moodily as Matt is? (See picture on the right)  And do all UKIP candidates look like they’re cut from the same, somewhat chunky cloth?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

My impression certainly is that the Tories have done a very good job at presenting Nicky Morgan as both a human being and effective politician.  I’m far less convinced that the other parties have done the same, although Labour have clearly gone all guns blazing to present the national party as important.  If anything it seems as a potential Tory voter I’m being wooed by the local MP/candidate as well as her party; whereas for Labour and the rest it’s more on the basis of what the party as a whole can do for me.  Interesting tactics and we’ll see how they play out (currently predicted BTW that Tory’s will hold this seat).

Has all this changed my voting intentions?  No, they changed over the past 5 years as I’ve witnessed what the various parties have been doing.  All this has done, has pretty much underscored my perceptions of the whole democratic process as it functions in the UK.  Will they have convinced others?  Hmn…there’s a long tale about my mother and the hustings she attended this year…only to decide that despite everything, she’d just vote as she always did!  All those dead trees for naught.

Oh and if anyone wants me to write this all up more formally for publication…let me know, I’m sure there’s a whole lot of funky discourse and content analysis that could be run on this wodge of data.  Happy voting!

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