WITH the election campaign heating up, thousands of campaign leaflets, flyers and newsletters are dropping on to doormats across Huddersfield. BARRY GIBSON takes a closer look at the sales pitch of each main party.
AS a resident of Slaithwaite – bang in the middle of the highly marginal Colne Valley seat – I’m very popular with politicians right now.
Barely a day goes by without one party or another shoving some propaganda through the letterbox.
But what messages are the parties trying to get across? And how effectively are they doing it?
THE yellow army are probably the most enthusiastic leafleters – at least around Slaithwaite. They regularly deliver the Lib Dem newsletter the Colne Valley Post, updating us on the actions of their Parliamentary candidate Clr Nicola Turner.
Of the three main contenders for the Colne Valley seat, Clr Turner has by far the strongest connection to the constituency – and she won’t let you forget it.
Her leaflets constantly contrast “hard-working local fighter” Nicola Turner with “the Conservative from Leeds” – a description of her Tory opponent Jason McCartney, which he would reject.
Clr Turner’s newsletters keep it local, taking advantage of the fact that – as well as being a Parliamentary candidate – she’s also a Kirklees councillor for the Colne Valley ward which takes in Marsden, Slaithwaite and Linthwaite.
This allows her to provide a checklist of things she’s already done for the people she hopes will send her to Westminster. So the front page of the Colne Valley Post lists achievements like the new crossing on Manchester Road in Slaithwaite, road resurfacing on Peel Street in Marsden and a new police car for the valley.
These kind of things may not get the pulses racing, but this is the kind of grassroots activism which the Lib Dems are hoping will pay off on May 6.
Turning to the inside pages, Clr Turner moves her attention to the Westminster contest. The Lib Dems are keen to present the Colne Valley contest as a straight fight between themselves and the Tories – even though Labour currently holds the seat.
The Colne Valley Post includes a graphic showing the votes won by each party in the last few Kirklees elections in the area. It shows the Conservatives just ahead of the Lib Dems, with Labour trailing a distant third.
The message to Labour voters is obvious: Only Nicola Turner can stop the Tories.
But any student of British politics will tell you that many people vote differently in general elections than in local polls. Counting out Labour may be wishful thinking.
Clr Turner’s four-page newsletter includes one picture of her party leader Nick Clegg.
THE Tories in Colne Valley are fans of the flyer rather than the four-page newsletter.
One recent example mixes the national and the local, with Colne Valley candidate Jason McCartney on one side and party leader David Cameron on the other.
Mr McCartney introduces himself as “a proud Yorkshireman” who lives in Honley.
He lists his campaigns over the last three years, including fighting to keep New Mill Library open and opposing development on Lindley Moor.
Mr McCartney is keen to talk about the Prime Minister, saying in the first sentence: “The Conservatives have to win in Colne Valley if we are to get rid of Gordon Brown and his Labour Government.”
It’s a message which Mr Cameron hammers home on the other side of the flyer, saying that a vote for any party other than the Conservatives “will only help Gordon Brown cling on to power.”
Like the Lib Dems, the Tories are keen to turn Colne Valley into a two-horse race – they just disagree about the identity of the horses.
The Conservatives have also sent letters from Mr Cameron to voters in the constituency. A colleague from Golcar was kind enough to bring one in for me to see.
It talks about Labour’s policy on civil liberties – complaining about ID cards and vowing to protect trial by jury and citizens’ right to privacy. It is surprising to see the Tories flagging up this issue rather than something more populist like crime or the economy.
It’s clear that the Tories see their leader as an asset, using his picture extensively on their literature.
THE Colne Valley Rose sports a large picture of beaming candidate Debbie Abrahams on the front with a Union Flag behind her.
It’s always worrying to see a political party waving the flag – are they saying that their opponents are unpatriotic?
Inside the four-page newsletter comes the most effective piece of propaganda in any of the literature.
Next to a picture of David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher, Labour has collected an assortment of Examiner headlines from 1996 – the last full year when the Conservatives ran the country. They want to show voters how bad the country was before Labour took power.
Headlines tell of rising crime, bed shortages at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, overcrowded classrooms and workers earning 15p an hour.
It’s a brilliant piece of propaganda (and one in which this paper played no part).
But just above this fine bit of electioneering is an example of propaganda gone wrong.
“We’re backing Debbie” says the headline, above quotes from local people explaining why Labour should win the next election.
The problem is that some of the people pictured are familiar to followers of local politics.
Bill Tankard, of Honley, praises Labour for reviving apprenticeships. Is this the same Bill Tankard who stood as Labour’s candidate in the Holme Valley North ward in the Kirklees Council elections of 2008?
Jeremy Cuss from Golcar tells us “Debbie has the intellect and drive to be an excellent MP.” I wonder if this is the same Jeremy Cuss who ran for Labour in Golcar during the 2008 election?
To put it in tabloid headline style: “Labour activists in ‘we’re voting Labour’ shocker”.
Mrs Abrahams’ newsletter features two pictures of David Cameron but none of Gordon Brown. In fact, the Prime Minister doesn’t even get a name-check.