2017 General Election Diary Day 31: Death by nostalgia

Nick Barlow
4 min readMay 19, 2017

There’s an assumption politicians often make that they are perfectly in tune with the electorate. Elections are often a way of finding out whether or not this is true and seeing just who knows best bout what the electorate wants, but underlying this on all sides is an assumption that the political awareness of politicians and the electorate has the same cultural base. One of the more interesting side-effects of this was in the last election where the debates featured numerous politicians talking about austerity and its effects, and the resulting effect that one of Google’s most popular searches in the UK was ‘what is austerity?’ as a large amount of the viewing audience had no idea what they were talking about.

The same thing comes about with politicians (along political commentators and, to be fair, academics) assuming that everyone has the same detailed knowledge about the history of politics that they do, and so can easily remember the swing in their constituency in 2001, and the key slogans that were being used in that election, when a lot of people have trouble remembering what constituency they’re in (let alone council ward) and even when the last election took place. Nowhere is this level of political nostalgia revealed than in the field of billboard posters. So, when Labour released their new poster this morning, the commentariat were quick to go ‘ah-ha, it’s a homage to an old Tory poster’ because they remember this sort of thing. Meanwhile, any member of the public seeing it is more likely to wonder just how someone is wearing three boxing gloves at once, rather than having any memory of seeing something similar twenty-five years ago.

(Whether any member of the public ever sees 90% of posters that are ‘unveiled’ by parties is an interesting question, given that most of them only exist as images for press conferences and the occasional poster van that does a couple of circuits of Westminster before heading off to hawk something more profitable.)

There is continuing trend in political campaigns to launch advertising campaigns that are somehow a response to something that happened years or even decades ago (consider how many times people have referenced the ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster) and it’s definitely a new phenomenon. I can’t recall anyone’s 1992 election campaign featuring posters that referenced election campaigns from the mid-60s, for instance. There’s a feeling of it being part of a political re-enactment society, where everyone likes all the ritual and rigmarole of poster launches even though they know they don’t mean anything anymore, but who wants to go to report on the start of a new social media targeting strategy?

And while we’re talking of obscure and possibly outdated methods of election campaigning, let’s turn to Election Leaflet Of The Day, where my absence has finally opened the trickle gates and allowed a decent number of new leaflets to appear on the site. So, let’s turn our attention to Boston and Skegness, where as well as the usual array of candidates, there’ll be a small party with no MPs and little support standing. However, we don’t have any leaflets from Paul Nuttalls of the Ukips on the site yet, so we’ll have to look at another small party, calling itself ‘A Blue Revolution’, with the subheading of being ‘The Worker’s Party’. (I suspect the latter is what they really wanted to call themselves but were thwarted by there already being a well-established Irish party with the same name) Their manifesto appears to be a mix of populism and some form of socialism (cut bureaucracy and more workplace democracy, but only in the public sector) and they call for Britain to maintain strong links with ‘the real countries of Europe’ which appears to be an odd bit of rhetoric, rather than an assertion of there being some fake countries in Europe. Or perhaps they think all the bureaucracy is being used to maintain Ruritania’s EU membership? We shall have to await their appearance in Parliament to find out.

Twenty days to go, and the finish line is creeping ever closer…

Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on May 19, 2017.



Nick Barlow

Former academic and politician, now walking, cycling and working out what comes next. https://linktr.ee/nickbarlow