How political leaflets used to look: Hampstead, 1950 – with a dog

Wilfred Watson, the Liberal Party candidate for Hampstead in 1950, finished third with 14.6%. Winning the seat was the Conservative, Henry Brooke, who went on in the 1960s to a remarkably unsuccessful period as Home Secretary, leading to him often being picked as one of the worst Home Secretaries of the 20th century and being a regular target of savage satire in the path-breaking show That Was The Week That Was.

Given the eulogising of supposed past golden ages of politics is so popular, it’s worth noting how little ideology there was in Watson’s opening pitch: elect me because I want things to be managed better – not because Watson wanted to change the system or had grand visions. Rather just the narrow technocratic modesty of “I am used to getting the facts of a situation [and] taking an objective viewpoint”.

Although some ideology comes in with the policy prescription he goes on to lay out, much of that is what we’d now put firmly on the right of the political spectrum – such as the repeated emphasis on cutting taxes and the desire for a flat rate of income tax whilst saying almost nothing about improving public services.

1950 Liberal Party leaflet - Hampstead - Wilfred Watson p1 1950 Liberal Party leaflet - Hampstead - Wilfred Watson p2 1950 Liberal Party leaflet - Hampstead - Wilfred Watson p3 1950 Liberal Party leaflet - Hampstead - Wilfred Watson p4For more gems from past election leaflets, see my collection How leaflets used to look.

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