Election leaflets – a review

27 April 2005

Out here in Edinburgh East, one of the many seats in non-marginal land (i.e. 80% of the country), the parties can’t be bothered to advertise, let alone stick up posters in their windows. There might as well not be an election, as far as here is concerned. There are no people canvassing; even in a student-heavy population as mine, parties like the Lib Dems can’t be bothered to go round an knock on doors, which is a shame; venting my spleen at a hapless canvasser would be a good way of relieving the mild worry about my dissertation.

Instead, the parties get Mr Postman to do all the hard work for them; today with my Private Eye and some bills came a clutch of election leaflets, which was slightly reassuring, some sign that the candidates might actually care, rather than wait for the inevitable Labour win. More pleasingly, it gives me a chance to slag them off pass a discerning eye over them for both your and my own entertainment.

Labour (Gavin Strang)
A glossy A4 leaflet, folded into thirds. Big text. Red and yellow. Some dodgy stretching/WordArt effects. Could be a flyer for the local McDonald’s. No picture of Blair, but plenty of Gavin Strang, who with his scruffy hair and funny teeth clashing with his suit, looks like a dustman who’s in court over a minor driving infraction; mostly harmless, then. Makes much of the fact he voted against the Iraq war and top-up fees (though he doesn’t mention ID cards or foundation hospitals, which he did vote for). Quite internationalist (committed to action on climate change, AIDS, the developing world). Economy and public transport also mentioned. Let down by a seriously ugly use of Arial, in varying sizes and aspect ratios, throughout. Haven’t they heard of Gill Sans or Futura? Needs a more “forward, not back”. 5/10.

Conservative (Mev Brown)
Enormous A3 foldout, matte finish. Booms throughout: “Who Should Be Your Next MP?” it asks, before shouting the single word “Brown” over half of one side. All in capitals. Gratuitous use of Impact, and like Labour badly sized Arial (which lets down the otherwise excellent typesetting and production). Mev Brown looks like a younger version of John Reid, like someone who was released by mistake under the Good Friday Agreement. Very thin on text – two issues (taxation and Iraq) get about 100 words each. Quite pro-occupation (a picture of him decked out in his TA outfit, Gareth Keenan-style adorns the Iraq article). All in all typical Conservative, shouty yet remarkably thin on ideas. 4/10.

Liberal Democrats (Gordon Mackenzie)
Glossy A4 leaflet, folded into thirds. Let down by a seriously bad bit of Photoshopping of Charles Kennedy in front of a saltire. Gordon’s photo looks like an accountancy firm’s “employee of the month” mugshot. Consists partly of a “Dear resident” letter in a faux-handwriting font that looks pretty naff. Pretty standard Lib Dem fare – more police, scrap council tax. Has space for filling in your name & address if you wish to help out in his campaign, the ‘Name’ bit can only fit about three letters in though, presumably all Lib Dems in the area have surnames like Lee or Cox. On the whole, fairly inoffensive. Quelle surprise. 6/10.

Scottish Socialists (Catriona Grant)
Glossy A5 leaflet. Garishly yellow and red on one side; Gill Sans bold text promises scrapping council tax and prescription charges. Aiming much for the elderly vote by the looks of things. Ms Grant’s photo looks grainy and old, like she’s a missing person or something. The reverse consists of a “tick the boxes” chart that helps you choose whether you’re left, right or centre and which party to vote for; this isn’t a very good idea. Makes up for it slightly by calling the Lib Dems and SNP “fearty parties”. But still a bit too Spartist. 5/10.

Scottish Green Party (Cara Gillespie)
Matte A5 leaflet. The only leaflet on recycled paper. The best designed – pleasing shades of green and decent clipart. Sticks to the party’s “People, Planet, Peace” theme but mentions local needs a lot. Combination of Impact and Arial, but quite pleasingly done. Mentions food a lot, thank the Jamie Oliver effect for that. Candidate photo looks professionally done, unlike the rest. Friendly and optimistic in tone. 8/10

Scottish National Party (Stefan Tymkewycz)
The SNP didn’t send anything out in the post, but I got a “Newsletter” through my letterbox later. A3 sheet, laser printed, split into 4 pages. Really badly typeset, Microsoft Publisher stuff, this. Prints the Edinburgh East & Musselburgh Scottish Parliament result as proof that the SNP are the best challenge to Labour, which is misleading as the Westminster constituency is different. Law and order and firearms control are policies of the day, as is a campaign for a Scottish Sky News. Hmm. Carries ads on the back, one looking for a spare lock-up garage to rent. Can’t decide whether it’s a party newsletter or an election leaflet. 2/10.

Sorry if you don’t like the snideness, but there is a point to this – there isn’t much in the way of local campaigning (although EUSA have organised a hustings event on Thursday) and this bunch of leaflets represent the total sum of the parties’ attempts to reach me in the campaign; how much effort they go into producing them is pretty much the only indicator of how hard they’re working for my vote. The Greens win it (despite my own bias, it is by far the better one) by a long shot, while the SNP are the biggest losers. The rest all seem to have rushed out fairly mediocre ones; in a day and age of cheap high-quality publishing you’d think they’d have a bit more care about it. I’ve seen better flyers from the local kebab houses.


10 Responses

Hugh

But whose vote will now be shifted by a leaflet coming through their door? Rather like posters in windows, I think your comment is all too accurate – it is basically a way of assessing how much the parties love /you/ – but if you actually want to know what they think, well, all media sources are just bursting to tell you (to be precise, to tell you how they interpret what the parties think).

Plus, presumably you suffer from being a seemingly impregnable Labour seat (you are, aren’t you?). If you were somewhere borderline, they might make more bother with you. For example, isn’t Edinburgh South West surprisingly similar to Edinburgh Pentlands? Which once was (reasonably) solid Tory (sniffy Sir Malcolm Rifkind), and now has the near-unmissable chance of being represented by eyebrow dying simpleton Alastair Darling? I bet they’re getting mail by the sackload.

On a tangential note: spotted, today, Brick Lane. George Galloway leading a go-slow convoy of about forty cars, all continuously sounding their horns as loud as they could, and most shouting through loudhailers and PA systems.

Because, you know, nothing says “Respect” like blocking traffic and deafening everybody within a 500 yard radius.

Yes, Edinburgh SW is pretty much the Pentlands with bits of the old Edinburgh Central and South tacked on; pretty dumb/brave to put him in a marginal when Edinburgh North or East would have been a dead cert…

Hugh

But North and East have incumbents, whereas they’ve palmed off the wee dear that was in Pentlands. Have realised that giving too freely of my views on Mr D would been detrimental to his good name, so must probably desist. But I’m open to offers on who should be Motorways Secretary if Ali should somehow fail to get back in.

Equally they could have palmed off Lazarowicz or Strang instead, or even shunted Darling into the now-vacant Linlithgow. Maybe. I’m not au fait with the intricacies of Scottish Labour’s internal politics.

Kat

Hello there, i’ve been a spectator on your site for a while now, so i think i owe you a comment.

I was quite curious to what the term ‘fearty parties’ meant? Being south of the river, i haven’t a clue.

Now the time to contribute something.
I live in Orpington,*collective groan*, and as a marginal area we’ve had Charles Kennedy visit 3 times in the space of a couple of weeks. The yellow ‘Chris Maine’ diamond – shaped banners are becoming bigger everytime i see them, they’re rather intimidating for pieces of cardboard.

This effort is all very well, but the parties may grab back some of the public’s respect if they cared to put just as much effort in to campaigning in areas that aren’t in dire need of attention. I think that’s a fair enough deal, it may also improve the apathy in the turn out rates.

Also, if you want a winner for asthetic appeal, try the old socialist site – http://www.socialist-labour-party.org.uk/. It’s pure genius!

“Fearty”, I believe from what I’ve picked up, means “cowardly”, though perhaps in this sense it can mean “dithering” or “equivocating”. I just thought it was nice to see a bit of dialect and cultural mix in the campaign.

Kat

yeah i’ve learnt a hell of a lot about devolution in Scotland just from my first year at AS level. It’s nice to see a country retaining their identity, but having respect for others at the same time.

Cara Gillespie

Hello there,
Its election day, I’ve been up since 6, back home intending to sleep and instead, erm, drinking coffee and googling my own name- vanity’s a terrible thing eh? Andd no, I’m not a 100m hurdles champion from Minnesota.
Anyhow, many thanks for the positive comments on my leaflet, all credits for design go to oor ain comms officer Ian Ruffell.
One wee thing though- Greens have been campaigning on food issues since long before Jamie Oliver decided to salve his Sainsbury’s sponsored conscience and bang on about school meals. Lothian Green MSP Mark Ballard first raised this in the Scottish Parliament back in December 2003… can we instead describe Mr. Oliver as reacting to the Green effect?
Support the Green Food Revolution campaign- it reaches the parts TV chefs never will.
Right, really must sleep now :)

Sorry, it wasn’t meant to say that you hadn’t had that policy before Jamie Oliver came along (in fact I’d be surprised if you didn’t), but it was definitely not an issue in the public mind until his TV series had aired; you do have him to thank for making it an election issue.