Where are my leaflets?

13 May 2013

"How could I make a decision? I didn't receive any leaflets"


That seemed to be a common complaint from the 2013 County Council Elections. We’ve conducted a string of interviews for local radio where many voters seemed to feel they didn’t see an election.
Well if you didn’t hear from the parties it’s because your vote doesn’t matter.
In local elections under First Past the Post there are two kinds of voter:  those in safe wards, that parties can take for granted, and those in marginal wards that can tip the balance. A handful of addresses in a handful of wards can mean the difference between victory and defeat, and those golden voters can expect leaflets en masse, door knocking, phone calls – the full monty of election campaigning.
So fresh from an interview for BBC Oxfordshire we thought we see what this meant for leaflets – and voters - in one county.
The Conservatives lost control of Oxfordshire Council – but where was this battle fought? Well it wasn’t in the Conservative heartlands in east and west (you can add the north of the county to the list with the exception of Banbury). It wasn’t fought in the Labour strongholds in the City of Oxford. And the battleground wasn’t the handful of Lib Dem bastions in commuter towns around the city.
297,000 voters were unlucky enough to live in these safe wards – that’s 59% of the total electorate.
If you wanted to see leaflets then the centre of Oxford was the place to be – a battleground heavily contested by the centre left.  Lib Dems, Labour and Greens out in force – and lots of competition means lots of literature. Banbury saw leaflets galore as it went from blue to red, and several wards bordering Oxford tightly contested between Lib Dems and Conservatives wouldn’t have been short of a few copies of Focus.  Some 204,000 golden voters in Oxfordshire’s marginals were getting all the attention.

Just take a look over on Election leaflets to see the difference. This site has been crowdsourcing the material that’s been landing on our mats for years.  And it paints a compelling picture of the two kinds of elections voters see in this country.
And it’s as much quality as quantity. There are the full colour glossies received by wards in contention and the grim risographed efforts of paper candidates. And most tellingly of all there are the missing leaflets from parties that aren’t prepared to engage with potential supporters in no-go areas – or even their own voters in their safe wards.
Pop in a postcode for central Oxford and you’ll be spoiled for choice. Check out a postcode for the Eastern fringe of the county, and you’ll be lucky to see anything.
Don’t get us wrong, this behaviour is entirely logical. With limited resources parties will put all their effort in the handful of places where it might make a difference.
But that’s the logic of First Past the Post. All voters deserve to be part of a debate on the future of their community – but that debate isn’t happening in most of Oxfordshire – or indeed in most of the country.
Fair votes for local elections in Scotland have meant the parties can’t get away from engaging with their electorate because all votes matter. It isn’t possible to deem any ward as ‘in the bag’. It means voters are on the receiving end of more debate, and dare we say it, more leaflets.
Voters in Oxfordshire deserve the same deal.
If you didn’t hear from the parties in the local elections we want to hear from you www.electoral-reform.org.uk/rottenboroughs
Still hanging onto leaflets? Upload them to www.electionleaflets.org 


4 Responses to Where are my leaflets?

Rachel Hardy 13 May 2013

FPTP needs to go. Its a rotten way of doing things. No question.

However, in terms of leaflets, as you did point out they cost money, which not all parties, like mine for example, (Green Party) have a lot of. Leaflets do tend to feel personal to some, but for others they land on a pile of unwanted others and go straight in the bin. I had someone complaining once that as the Green Party in particular we should not be putting out leaflets, so, its not as straightforward as you think ! Would have thought these days many even most ? people could access information online. Looking at parties websites, looking at facebook groups etc. Of course we have to ensure people not online don't loose out, but really people need to take more responsibility themselves to find out information. It is there now, online all the time.

Michele Paule 13 May 2013

The picture painted here of safe seat consituents being ignored in favour of marginals in Oxford does not reflect the reality. I stood in - and won - a seat considered 'safe' for Labour and this was in no small part due to the tireless work of teams of candidates and volunteers doorstepping, not just before the election but all year round. Building communication with voters, getting to know them and their needs and concerns is the valuable graft; no seat is really 'safe' without such work. Leaftlets are the extra, not the main means of communication - they provide a summary of work done, of underpinning policy, and a remimder to vote.

Electoral Reform Society's picture
Electoral Refor... 14 May 2013

Hi Michelle. We know leaflets are just one means - but they illustrate our point. There are too many seats across the UK that are safe without graft, without debate, without engagement. Under FPTP the Labour Party 'owned' the Central Belt of Scotland at local government level, and this was bad for voters and ultimately bad for the party - as that work was not being done. Fair votes has changed that.

GBCerberus 14 May 2013

The corruption in Great Britain runs deep. It extends not only throughout the largely tory establishment, but includes nu-labour and the libdems. In short, it doesn't actually matter who anyone votes for, because it's carved up by the Westmonster Club for their own interests - and they sure as Hell aren't OUR interests.
Until we get Proportional Representation, or a "None Of The Above" box on our ballot forms, the corruption, the graft, the lies and the theft will continue. I want the whole rats nest destroying.