Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Thinking how I would vote if I only had the information in the booklet raised some interesting reflections.
Each presentation has strengths and weaknesses, and for a seasoned LibDem some hidden messages. Comments in the order as on the ballot paper:
Ming Campbell. An interesting prospectus. We are taught in writing literature for electors out there to pass the ‘three second test’ – the amount of time we have to grab the attention of a potential reader between picking up the leaflet and passing the waste-paper basket. Good bold picture and lead-in in the Campbell section would serve well in meeting this test. Perhaps not quite as important with a committed electorate though and it takes up a quarter of the space. Nearly a third of space taken up with endorsements, including a section which is just a small grey blur of ‘supporters also include’. This last for me is just a waste of space. I could have done with some more strong statements from Ming himself in his own words in the space that could be freed by axing this. Best bit for me – ‘no time for the media-driven view that we must either lurch to the left or lunge to the right’. But oh dear the grey colour scheme…
Simon Hughes. Clearly shows the influence of lessons learnt (and not learnt) from campaigning literature in googols of elections. Good bright pages with nicely contrasting presentations. The montage of photos of Simon show him in action and relating to people, giving a sense of motion. A section on endorsements gives a much more lively feel than on the Campbell page. Subtle positive quoting of Charles Kennedy suggests a particular claim without actually making one – good subliminal positioning. However the use of quotes and bar charts grates – the quotes are ‘horserace’ comments right from the opening shots of the campaign and we need to know what is what now. As to the bar chart this is only as good as the poll and I think the word is pretty well out that the ICM poll measured nothing very useful except name recognition before the campaign. So I feel it is not an useful addition for this manifesto. For me again wasted space.
Chris Huhne. This offering goes for the clean professional prospectus approach, with professional design and fashionable white spaces. It would not be out of place at a business launch. Press comments are on his basic qualities not on ‘horse race’ matters. Content highlights his areas of experience and specific policy target areas. Much more included in terms of policy specifics and focus than in the other two efforts. Has NO ‘endorsements’ section at all. Two photos – one participating in the Anti-Iraq-war march shows him quite relaxed and very human. The main photo is beautifully staged and has plusses and (for me in this context) minuses. A more positive picture (better, a couple of pictures) would have shown him interacting with people face to face. That might have boosted a sense of how he would act on a campaign occasion with the public, something that Ming partially and Simon very definitely work to get across.
So – assessment? On this I may show more of my bias, so be warned.
Well single most effective bit is Simon’s human interaction sequence linked to his action experience. Worse bit is Simon’s cluttering the page with outdated graphics. Suggest to me that Simon at his campaigning best can hit real heights, at other times things may slightly trip up. Ming could have done with more of chance to show himself, especially his humour, with more direct speech, bringing himself much more forwards from teh background of his supporters. Chris sets out his strong points well but could have done more to examine the stereotypes of ‘coolness’ that his non-supporters are suggesting and presenting some items to challenge this. Maybe more colour would have helped and some tales of direct campaign experience.
Nobody is perfect and neither is any particular campaign document. I am rather glad I have more information than this to guide my choice. Still thinking...