Sunday, April 15, 2007

What's the point of a poster?

Local bloggers - here and here - have today been debating the role of posters in a party political campaign. I thought I'd add my own musings.

Posters take a lot of effort to put together and then display around the constituency. They cost a lot of money but they also take a lot of time to maintain. They get ripped down, fall down and (sometimes) stolen. So why do we do it then?

In my ten years of being involved in politics I've never met a single person who was convinced to vote by a poster or who had switched their vote because of a poster. Not a single time have I heard, "I was going to vote Labour until I saw your Tory posters so now I'm switching."

Do they create the "big mo'" then? Well, no. A lot of posters can equal a lot of support but for every house with a poster there are a hundred that do not - and those hundred have votes too. There is one house in Norwich with 4 LibDem posters on it - which represent a single elector. Similarly there are giant posters in fields in Norfolk that do not represent a single Tory voter! People are not stupid - parties even sometimes run poster campaigns to hide the lack of a real campaign! Reading Martin Bell's biography recently there was an interesting story. Put off bv vast numbers of "Hamilton" posters around Tatton, Bell was told by one aid: "Yes, but trees and fields cannot vote." There are lots of LibDem posters in University Ward - they still ain't gonna win it!

Posters have the ability to make a party look stupid. If they get damaged or grafittied then it is a very public attack on that party. What's more those silly "Winning Here" ones - in areas where that party doesn't win - makes politicans look slightly deceitful.

And yes, I do display a poster. Why? Because it makes me feel good - and vaguely annoys my neighbours. It won't win me any votes, it'll be stolen or torn down a few times. But I'll keep it up because it is a public statement about my politics and who I am. It is a great part of the British electoral tradition. Silly, but I'll still do it ... for no decent reason either.


Anonymous said...

"It is a great part of the British electoral tradition" - and to do otherwise or make excuses is to campaign on the cheap, IMHO! Many people putting up Green posters in Bowthorpe seem to be reaffirming what they view is important, rather than ambivalence.

Anonymous said...

I rather miss posters and garden boards. That is maybe part political anorak in me but the splash of colour denotes some interest in the campaign and process. I too don't think anyone is particularly persuaded but they can act as a reminder. I have particular memories of 1987 and counting the window posters as I walked my nan's dog - being a naive 13 year old for a moment I thought Labour was heading for victory - but then again the route was Palmer Road, George Pope Road, Jewson Road in Catton Grove. What I do remember was there actually were houses with Tory posters on those streets including one house with a big Mrs T poster in the front window. That might have been to wind up Old Dave Tilley the Labour county cllr who lived next door.

I can cite two examples of where posters came into their own in 1992 in Norwich North. Firstly Labour had almost finished 3rd in 1987 - the tactic of plastering the place with garden boards as soon as the election was announced in 1992 helped to put the liberals completely out of the running.

Conversely in the final week the Tories put up a huge number of posters. Indeed, this appeared to be a tactic to leave it late. It gave an impression of momentum at the end of the campaign.

Ok, posters may have had their day but in the right time and place they can serve a purpose.