How leaflets used to look: Sutton, 1972 – no bar chart but a darn good skull

Welcome to another leaflet from the archives, this time courtesy of Sutton Council leader Ruth Dombey who has kindly provided a copy of the first Focus leaflet put out in Sutton back in 1972. It kicked off the winning Parliamentary by-election campaign for Graham Tope and was put together by Liverpool’s Trevor “Jones the Vote” who pioneered many of the campaign tactics now taken for granted.

Some of the issues may feel rather familiar and given its pioneering nature I think we can forgive the missing apostrophes and question marks… Interesting too both the level of personal detail about Graham and the inclusion of a story about what the Liberal Party believed in.

Sutton Focus leaflet 1972: front page

Sutton Focus leaflet 1972: middle pages

Sutton Focus leaflet 1972: back page

Click on the images for larger versions.

The idea of regular newsletters had been pioneered by various Liberal councillors in the early 1960s, with Liverpool seeing the birth of the regular “Focus” moniker. The sequence of 1972 Parliamentary by-elections popularised Focus and related campaigning techniques around the party. Local lore in Sutton has it that this Focus was the first such outside Liverpool, though the gap between its inception in Liverpool and the Sutton by-election of around a decade means it is likely that at least some other areas near Liverpool had started using the name too before the by-election. However, I’ve not so far been able to pin down for sure any such use, so Sutton’s lore may yet turn out to be true.


You can view the other leaflets in this series here.


* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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  • I remember delivering it (well, to be honest it might have been the one that came after it). I find it hard to believe that it was the first Focus outside Liverpool, but the other newsletters that I remember from that era were called things like City Centre Circular (Cambridge from 1967 onwards); Ad Lib (Chandler’s Ford, Eastleigh from …..Martin Kyrle can fill in the gap). I’ll have to look at my collection of leaflets from that era, though they were not always clearly dated. Certainly Sutton & Cheam resulted in a very rapid expansion of the brand name.

  • You’re probably right about ‘FOCUS’. In Harlow we were putting out something similar in 1972-3, though ours was done on yellow paper on a stencil duplicator (we didn’t get litho until I started HLPS in 1974), but it was called Stewards Liberal Newsletter not FOCUS. We didn’t adopt that name until a few years later.

    We too highlighted road safety, and one of our first achievements was to win a campaign to get a pedestrian crossing built after the Council and police said it wasn’t needed. That crossing is still there and in frequent use today – and I’ve met people who still vote for us because of it.

    We never had a skull graphic, but I do remember one headline was, “Need another child die?” after a child was killed on an unsafe road.

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