Stuart Ball’s collections of election posters from the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian is really two books in one. First, a sumptuously produced full colour collection of Conservative political posters from the last century and second, interspersed with that, a clear and succinct retelling of the history of the last century’s politics from the perspective of the Conservative Party. The quality of the writing means that even if you know little about some of the people or issues the posters are about, the book clearly and swiftly gives you enough context to understand them.
Dole Queues and Demons has all the classics you would expect, including Labour isn’t working from 1978 and Labour’s Tax Bombshell from 1992, plus many that are just as interesting and effective but didn’t manage to snatch a place in political history in the way those two did.
It is notable how some common themes persist across the decades, including attacking Labour’s record on the economy, boasting about the volume of Conservative spending on public services (in an attempt to deflect Labour attacks) and dismissing the Liberals/Liberal Democrats as a wasted vote.
My one quibble with the book is that some of the posters were of, at best, dubious effectiveness (such as the notorious Demon Eyes one attacking Tony Blair or the one featuring David Lloyd George and chocolate). Yet the book treats them all the same with little analysis of the impact of any.
But that is only a minor quibble about a great book.
Got a view on this review? Then please rate it on Amazon.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.