Back in the 2001 general election campaign I was working at Liberal Democrat HQ and involved in a mass garden gnome buying operation in an attempt to secure positive publicity for the party. If I remember correctly, we succeeded.
What I do remember for sure is the problems subsequently of disposing of large numbers of garden gnomes. Three are now in my garden, one on my desk at work and dozens more scattered to the four winds.
Since then, it’s been rather quiet on the political gnome front. But no longer:
Last weekend in the mountainous Austrian state of Vorarlberg, 400 gnomes disappeared. Nobody knows where they have gone. But everyone knows it’s down to politics…
With regional elections set for Sept. 21, the left-wing Social Democratic Party ordered 20,000 gnomes called “Coolmen” earlier this year. The gnomes, toting sunglasses and campaign signs, were the party’s last-ditch effort to prevent an electoral defeat in Vorarlberg. About 400 of the gnomes were attached to lampposts on Saturday as alternatives to traditional posters, but their mass disappearance by Sunday morning was conspicuous…
Electoral advertisement campaigns are largely taxpayer-funded in Austria, which means that the gnomes were publicly financed, making their theft a sensitive political issue. According to the Social Democratic Party, it spent roughly a third of its campaign resources in the state, $660,000 in total, on the gnomes.
A third. Yes, a third. A whole third.
But at least the Social Democratic Party made good use of the gnome motif, using gnomes in its campaign video too:
Although having watched it, you may wish to quibble over my use of “good”.
Gnomes do not feature in 101 Ways To Win An Election.
P.S. It’s true about the gnome purchasing binge: