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The 'doormat detritus' that is a traditional part of the democratic process

The ‘doormat detritus’ that is a traditional part of the democratic process

Election 2017 – the battle of the flyers

Nearly there. But who to vote for? As Paul Simon wrote: ‘Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose – every way you look at it, you lose.’ But we can do better than that, can’t we? Lots of stuff is getting shoved through your letterbox to help. Toby Sargent has been casting his rheumy eye over the doormat detritus, and offers this entirely personal view of what he found.

Electioneering through social media, the cunning of psephologists, and the bravado and bare-faced cheek of the spin doctors, all become more sophisticated as each election comes. So it’s reassuring that the glossy flyer is still there to entertain and educate us, and do so in much the same way as it has done since it was first deployed in politics nearly 300 years ago.

I’ve been looking at what has come through my letterbox since the campaigning began, with a focus on the ones that come as a one-off bundle, delivered by the postman. And reading through them, it’s good to know that the runners and riders in Hastings and Rye have risen to the challenge of persuading us to vote for them, and used the broadest of brushes and the most economical use of the truth to do so.

Local issues

Peter Chowney for Labour focuses his leaflet exclusively on local issues. It’s all pretty straightforward but distinctly light on detail, and no real indication of where the money will come to ‘restore’ policing, ‘improve’ transport infrastructure and ‘reverse’ public spending cuts. But he plays the local card strongly and the pictures make him look nice enough, which is not always the case with these things (see below.) In fact his face has something of the bird of prey about it. A hen harrier, perhaps. This observation is somewhat reinforced by him posing at the Rye Nature Reserve, looking for all the world as if he’s about to set off in swooping pursuit of a scuttling field mouse.

'Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose - every wat you look at it, you lose'

‘Laugh about it, shout about it, when you’ve got to choose – every way you look at it, you lose’

A couple of oddities, though. The word ‘Brexit’ does not appear once in the flyer and, less surprising perhaps, neither is there a picture or mention of Mr Corbyn.

To be fair though, earlier in the campaign his party delivered a 16-page campaigning booklet on Mr Chowney’s behalf which broadened things out considerably and, again to be fair, did cover Brexit and include a small tribute to his party leader, albeit at the very end of the text.

Good imagery

The pictures of sitting MP, and Home Secretary, Amber Rudd in her election flyer are altogether more carefully chosen, however. Here she is with a crowd – well, at least 24 that I could count – of supporters in the town centre. Next, she’s chatting with a women outside a police station, listening to a couple at the Royal Voluntary Service office in St Leonards, crouching beside a poster promoting apprentices, and then chewing the fat with a couple of fishermen on the Stade. Good imagery that’s topped off, inevitably, with a two-shot of her and Mrs May, shaking hands.

Indeed, the flyer is headlined ‘AMBER RUDD, Hastings and Rye, STANDING WITH THERESA MAY’ in case anyone thought the picture of the pair of them next door to it was the candidate pressing the flesh of a local Victoria Wood tribute act.

Shambolic coalition government

In fact, a whole 50 per cent of the leaflet is given over to Mrs May’s musings. There’s a long generic letter from her reminding us dummies that ‘a vote for anyone other than my local candidate risks Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister of a shambolic coalition government.’ This apparently terrifying prospect is rammed home with a carefully and unkindly created picture montage of Mr Corbyn looking bored, beside Nicola Sturgeon seemingly having just sucked an especially bitter lemon, Tim Farron gurning like a village idiot, and Diane Abbott giving someone her best death-stare.


This approach, of course, was signed off when the Tory election strategy was to present Mrs May as President-in-waiting, so the word ‘Conservatives’ appears only three times, and then as part of a logo, tucked into the background. That may perhaps turn out to have been a miscalculation on the spinners’ part. Time will tell.

Ms Rudd, by the way, also supplied an earlier leaflet supporting her campaign. More of the same, to be honest although I was surprised to read that ‘the Government has committed more than £30m of lottery funding since 2010 (including) over £12m for Hastings Pier.’ This is not Government money. The National Lottery is independent of Government and makes its own decisions – that was a fundamental principle of it when it was set up in 1994 by . . the Conservative Government under John Major.

Trademark grey fedora

I also got a jolly little sheet from Nicholas Wilson, the independent ‘whistleblower’ candidate. His manifesto puts the emphasis very firmly on the need to tackle corruption in all areas of public life but, like fringe candidates everywhere, he seems to cut a solitary figure. Indeed the flyer contains seven pictures of him, each wearing his trademark grey fedora but, sadly I think, not one contains a single other person.

You don’t get the impression that Michael Phillips, standing for UKIP, has much connection with us down here. No mention of local issues, and no indication in word or picture that he has ever visited the place. There’s an angry look about him in his picture, although no shot of his party leader who was, perhaps, too busy preparing to skipper the England test match team at the time.

‘Islington based clique’

Instead, we get a shouty list of demands: 20,000 more police, 20,000 more soldiers, and 20,000 more nurses – a shopping list that doesn’t suggest to me a particularly thoughtful analysis of what the public sector needs. Easy numbers to remember, though.

UKIP - 'shouty list of demands'

UKIP – ‘shouty list of demands’

Rather entertainingly, he devotes 25 per cent of his text to an analysis of the five things Labour – an ‘Islington-based clique,’ in his words – stands for. There’s uncontrolled mass immigration, staying in the EU, selling off housing to ‘foreign buyers,’ privatising the GP service, and abolishing the nuclear deterrent.

Well, one out of five’s not bad.

Lib Dems and Greens

Which brings us to the end of this little – and entirely personal – review of the election flyers. For the record, however, nothing came from the Lib Dems and the Greens have decided to step aside, recommending their supporters vote for Labour.

But the main thing is to make up your own mind, and don’t forget to actually vote next Thursday.

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Posted 22:25 Friday, Jun 2, 2017 In: Election 2017


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  1. Clive Gross

    Glad you received Nicholas Wilson’s leaflet. For a small independent campaign the leaflet that you can get delivered by the Royal Mail (which we raised public donations to be able to print) is the only chance to get the core campaign messages across to every household in the constituency and while Nick is principally campaigning on anti-corruption issues, we wanted to tie the effect of this into other areas of life that people are concerned with. Hopefully that is what people reading the leaflet will have taken away from it.

    Clive Gross – Agent for Nicholas Wilson

    Comment by Clive Gross — Sunday, Jun 4, 2017 @ 20:37

  2. Nick Perry

    Given that the Liberal Democrats have had delivered by Royal Mail an addressed election communication to each household in the constituency, it is concerning that you have not received yours. Perhaps there is a political will to dissemble?

    In any case, your readers (who may well have received Lib Dem literature) should know that the priorities for the Liberal Democrats are to provide effective opposition and scrutiny to the impending Tory Government on Brexit (as well as a second referendum – on the terms of the deal); seek a sustainable funding settlement for the NHS (1p on Income Tax) and fight Tory cuts to schools budgets across our constituency.

    Comment by Nick Perry — Saturday, Jun 3, 2017 @ 08:08

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