Some campaigning advice doesn’t change

Election literature should never assume knowledge on the part of the reader. It should concisely, and in the plainest language possible, relate what has to be told. One fault of the bulk of election literature is that whilst suitable for a highly cultured and favoured class of people, it is almost useless for the ordinary elector who, intelligent and quick enough in the ordinary way, is not a close political student, conversant with every detail of the Parliamentary doings of the day.

The Conduct and Management of Parliamentary Elections, William Woodings, 9th edition (by HF Oldman & J Manus), 1933, echoing a similar theme as my Edward Everett post and the wisdom of Joseph Napolitan. Not to mention the evidence about what voters know.

I’ll be very pleased if this book ages so well.

(Mind you, some things have changed: “A question has arisen as to the legality of the distribution by the election agent of portrait buttons.” The conclusion? Such buttons were illegal.)

6 responses to “Some campaigning advice doesn’t change”

  1. When I learned about elections, polling cards — party postcards which resembled the official notification holding voter details — were illegal.

    I *think* that polling cards are acceptable nowadays unless they look like official documents.

    Some recent candidates in local elections have used “polling cards” when the name on the ballot paper does not match the commonly known name. Imagine posting 6,000 fliers that “Jayne Constance Bewirlderbeaste-Capp” is better known as “Connie Capp”.

    Ensure that the commonly known name of a candidate is the name on the nomination papers and ballot paper.

    • In my London Borough of Waltham Forest days, a prominent and controversial Conservative was called Waldemar Thor Nielsen-Hansen. The local paper’s political reporter wrote when Mr WTNH was trying to change his designation on the ballot paper that he had considered “Waldemar Thor Nielsen-Hansen, commonly known as Wally”, but had concluded it might be misunderstood.

  2. My RO had taken to putting the ‘commonly known’ name on the ballot paper directly. So Robert became Bob and Janet became Jan without them even telling the agent.

  3. My experience was the same as Kay’s. My commonly known as name ‘Mick’ was on the ballot paper and I was Taylor, Mick. The Labour agent chastised me because she said she knew my name was Michael. Although I had known her for decades and our eldest sons played together and are still chums, she clearly hadn’t been paying attention as all my close friends have always called me Mick.

  4. we organised opinion ballots about local issues so that voters could bring their opinion slip to our teller.. we got away with it once…

  5. Way back – when I had learnt much from years of canvassing I came up with this (I believe) truism . . . “most people don’t think about politics most of the time”. So, yes, any Focus and election material must never assume the recipient knows anything – the subject must be explained simply and politely. Always ask recipients to contact one for more information, or to express their views.

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