When chocolates featured in political ads

One of the Conservative election posters featured in the excellent collection Dole Queues and Demons: British election posters from the Conservative Party Archive by Stuart Ball contains David Lloyd George and chocolate:

David Lloyd George's sauce - 1909 Conservative Party poster

Dating from 1909 it was intended as an attack on the then Chancellor of the Exchequer’s support for free trade, which he and the Liberals frequently couched in terms of bringing about free (ie free of tariffs) food. Yet Lloyd George’s own People’s Budget proposed not only keeping many duties on food and drink, it even proposed some increases.

Such allegations of hypocrisy can be very effective – if they are believable. That was the problem with this attack. Partly that’s a matter of detail. You can be of course be against tariffs for a variety of reasons, including their impact on food prices, without therefore thinking that every other possible policy with its own bundle of different impacts, including on food prices, is also bad.

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But anyway, such detail rarely trumps simpler, more instinctive public reactions to political attacks. In this case, the attack simply wasn’t on the main issue of the day. The big debate was the impact on food prices and jobs of tariffs, with the Tories clearly in favour of tariffs and the Liberals clearly against. Duties on chocolates were peripheral to that big question, making the attack an incidental one rather than one central to the political questions that mattered at the time.

That is why not only being on message but also having a message that is relevant to the big issues in the minds of voters is so important – and a regular theme in Part 1 of 101 Ways To Win An Election.

Buy Dole Queues and Demons: British election posters from the Conservative Party Archive by Stuart Ball here.

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