This week, all voters across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough found a booklet containing candidate addresses for the upcoming Mayor election in their mailboxes. (An ‘election address’ is a written statement of a candidate’s political views and intentions which is distributed to every voter in the constituency in which they are standing for election.)
It was quite interesting to see what each candidate had to say about local issues and governance all in one place, especially as this is an opportunity for them to reach out to every single registered voter. So with both time and a cup of tea in hand, I thought I’d do a quick comparison of what each candidate has chosen to communicate about themselves and their plans for our region.
A few interesting aspects related to both content and design choices caught my eye. Here’s a comparison of their content (click on image to see a larger version).
- There are 2 things everyone agrees on – housing issues and transport troubles in the region.
- Labour seems to cover the widest range of issues in its address among the lot.
- The Liberal Democrat candidate doesn’t really talk about much in his address. In fact his stood out for being really vague. Strange and a lost opportunity, given that otherwise Lib Dem promotional material is deposited into our mailboxes every other week, and which usually has a lot more detail than this address in the booklet. I really couldn’t get a sense of who the guy is and what he stands for from it.
- The UKIP candidate wants to fight for the rights of car drivers as opposed to other road users and the universal human right of free car parking, and he’s the only one who says so. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
- The UKIP candidate focuses a lot on projecting himself as the friendly, likable, hardworking neighbourhood guy and includes a lot of personal background. Smart, I say.
- Most others don’t focus on their personal details much other than the Green Party candidate. I suppose they naively expect voters to be interested enough to look up their backgrounds and manifestos on their websites. But guess what – most voters won’t have the time or interest in doing that. Including me. I literally only have carefully read the booklet sent by the Combined Authority, and that’s still probably a lot more than most registered voters . Looking up websites and seeking out info is too time-consuming for many, despite best intentions.
- Labour is the only one with complete contact details. The English Democrats candidate seems a bit behind times and includes no contact or further info details. (Although I’m not sure how pleasant the experience of reaching out to him would be anyway, given his current political man-crush.)
The small things that matter
In yet another example of how much careful thought and ‘clever’ design goes into right-wing populists’ communication strategies, you can find a bit of subtle messaging going on in the UKIP’s address.
They use a large red cross in a checkbox next to their candidate’s name. This cross is exactly how voters are supposed to mark their preference on the ballot paper (never mind the obvious contradiction of crossing out your preference). It is a nice touch for sure and it would be very interesting to find out how much of an impact such design elements can have on message retention among voters and ultimately their candidate choice.
UKIP have also stuck in their favourite anti-immigrant, anti-taxation rhetoric here, although those are not really issues the mayor would be dealing with. Or maybe they mean that they want to stop immigration to Cambridge from up north or something? Really, who knows with them.