Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sedgefield by-election IV

Between work and Full Council this evening I was able to spend three hours "knocking out" in Newton Aycliffe, encouraging residents to back Phil Wilson. It was my impression that the Labour vote was holding up well. There was a feeling at HQ that Labour's effort has been aided by some curious targetting decisions by the LibDems, who seemed to downplay key 'independent' wards where they might have picked up votes.

There's food for thought at Tory Graham Robb's final by-election posting, where he rails against the FibDems' negative campaign and the sheer weight of leaflets distributed by them during the campaign. Certainly I found an emerging anger on the doorstep amongst residents about the volume of material through their letterboxes.

Be in no doubt that it's the LibDems who began this trend. The remorseless barrage of leaflets they routinely deploy at election time is meant, I guess, to counter the fact that in many seats, council and Parliamentary, residents will have heard nothing from the LibDems for a long, long time. It's astonishing that after a Focus blitz, people will assume they've been receiving regular communications from the LibDems for ages. Real policy is normally absent from these leaflets - instead they will ramp up people's fears about some key local issue, accompanied by wholly made-up opinion polls showing the LibDems "neck and neck" with the incumbent party.

Unfortunately, the two main parties have little option but to try and match the LibDems leaflet for leaflet. The result, as I found in Newton Aycliffe, is a lot of real resident anger at the sheer waste, which brings politicians of all hues into disrepute.

But what's to be done? You can't legislate the problem away, as that would be an incursion on free speech. Perhaps the answer lies with local parties reaching agreements in advance of polling day that, say, a maximum of 3 leaflets will be circulated over the period of the campaign by each. That would bring a sense of proportion to the campaign, and be good for the environment too.

It would be a brave Labour agent, however, who slept easily after shaking hands with the opposition on a deal like this...


Ian White, said...

Would of blown a gasket if hed seen all the papers from all the party's. I still have it all I will do a count later, I think it should be restricted to one per Party it did get silly in the end to the point most after the first were ignored! You can only hear the same thing so many times and not switch off!
Well done to all who stood as I know how much hard work goes into just a relativly small Parish elction!

Paul Leake said...

You'd never get agreement for that. The Big Two parties get their views into peoples living rooms through broadcast and print media. Lib Dems don't have mass market press supporting them or get equal coverage in broadcast media outside of election periods and have to rely on leaflets to try and get their message across.

Also, the other reason that they do it is that while it annoys some people, it works overall - at every GE seats that deliver the vast amount of paperwork expected by party HQ do far better than those that do not. Cowley Street certainly believes as an article of faith that there is a direct link between the number of leaflets delivered and the success of campaigns.

If your message is that party y are out of the race, the very fact you are able to outdeliver them three-fold is part of the message.
No party is going to stop following the tactics it believes most successful, any more than any party will stop negative campaigning when it suits them.

Anonymous said...

If being on the TV is important, and delivering over 20 leaflets as per the Liberals is important, then why with no publicity but with a very good candidate did the BNP do so well. If they had been on the TV like blue Labour & the red Tories & delivered as many leaflets as the Liberals, they would have come 2nd.

Paul Leake said...

Some might say that the BNP are even more willing to tell blatent porkies than your usual pol. Certainly many of the BNPs local government gains have come where they have blatently misled people about asylum seekers, council housing, mosques, paedophiles etc.