Tag Archives: how leaflets used to look

Not all is quite so new in the world of political messaging and behaviour change

On my way to windmill spotting in Lincoln recently, I happened across this example of an 19th century election leaflet for the City of Lincoln’s local elections:

It’s a neat example of a point I’ve made before, that what can seem new and exciting in the world of communications often is really long-established ideas in slightly new clothes.

In this case, note two particular features of the message. First, the reference to electors having previously elected Mr Page four times before. In other words, …

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How leaflets used to look: Labour’s Citizen leaflet from 1929

Today’s leaflet in my series on old election leaflets is a centrally produced Labour party 4-pager from 1929. As with the Conservative leaflet from 1931 which I previously featured, the design may be very different from good modern leaflets, but the content has some very familiar overtones.

The May 1929 contest was the first general election in which women under 30 could vote and also one of only three elections in the modern era where the party with the most votes did not also win the most seats. Despite being slightly out-polled by the Conservatives, Labour won more seats in …

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How leaflets used to look: a Tory attack on Labour’s economic policies, 1931

Today’s leaflet in my series on old election leaflets is a centrally produced Conservative Party leaflet from October 1931. Ramsay MacDonald had led a Labour administration under August 1931 when it split over a Budget and economic crisis. MacDonald earned his place in Labour’s hall of infamy by then forming a National Government with Conservatives and Liberals. Only two Labour colleagues joined MacDonald in this government, so the attacks in this leaflet on “Arthur Henderson and other Socialist ex-Ministers” are, nominally at least, directed at Labour rather than MacDonald and co. in the coalition.

Swap references such as the Empire Marketing Board for current ones and the basic arguments being made in the leaflet are remarkably similar to contemporary politics:

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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.

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How leaflets used to look: a 1920s Liberal attack leaflet

Earlier this week I blogged about the skilful presentation of the Liberal Party’s economic plan in a 1929 leaflet, but what about leaflets having a go at other parties? Here is how the Liberals of the time attacked Labour’s Land Policy:

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How leaflets used to look: the 1929 Liberal economic plan

With the economy continuing to dominate politics, it is time to take another dip into my collection of old political leaflets and have a a look at how the Liberal Party of 1929 talked about the issue:

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How leaflets used to look: Clapham 1955

Continuing my occasional series on how election leaflets used to look, this one is a Labour freepost election address from the 1955 general election in Clapham constituency.

The front of the leaflet is a design unlikely to be used today:

Labour election leaflet, Clapham, 1955 (front)

Dated too is the right-hand side of the inside, with its appeal from the candidate’s wife to female voters – a common tactic at the time. Despite the old-fashioned typography, the layout is clear and easy to read …

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How election leaflets used to look: Doncaster 1950

Previously I’ve dug out a City of London Alderman election leaflet from the 1930s which showed how many of the message in election leaflets have stayed the same over the decades, even if the presentation has changed massively.

This time I’ve dug out a single-sided leaflet from Doncaster in 1950, for Labour MP Ray Gunter who was moving seat from Essex to northern England following the redrawing of boundaries.

It is typical of a style of leaflet that last for many years after women were first given* the right to vote in Parliamentary elections – from the wife of a candidate …

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How election leaflets used to look: Skipton 1885

As a follow up to my City of London election leaflet from the 1930s, here is a single-sided Conservative general election leaflet from 1885 for the Skipton Parliamentary constituency:

Skipton 1885 Conservative leaflet

The name handwritten in the bottom left corner is that of the voter to whom the leaflet was delivered, the handwriting not so much an attempt at personalisation as a reflection of the lack of alternative ways of individually addressing leaflets at the time. Indeed, overall the letter is far less personal than an equivalent is (or should …

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How election leaflets used to look

Earlier this month I highlighted how election posters in Australia, and other countries, feature close up head shots of candidates in a way that is almost completely unknown in the UK.

Large head and shoulders photographs did, however, previously feature heavily in our election literature – on leaflets if not posters. For decades many leaflets look like this effort from Sir W Lacon Threlford who was standing for election as a City of London Alderman in 1935:

Lacon Threlford election leaflet

Pausing for a moment of sympathy for the clerical …

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