Beware putting your family in election leaflets

One detail from Carina Trimingham’s unsuccessful legal action this week (possibly subject to appeal) is about using families in election leaflets:

Old Bailey: the scales of justiceMr Justice Tugendhat said in a written judgment: “Ms Trimingham was not the purely private figure she claims to be. Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited.

“This is mainly by reason of her involvement with Mr Huhne, both professionally as his press agent and personally as his secret mistress, in circumstances where he campaigned with a leaflet to the electorate of Eastleigh about how much he valued his family.”

Regardless of the law, I’ve always preferred to leave families out of election leaflets – as if a politician uses a family as a reason to vote for them, it is hard then to turn round and say, “leave my family out of the news”.

Of course airbrushing all family references out can go to absurd lengths and particularly in a world of social media it can be extremely artificial to avoid any mention of family members.

But proactively featuring them in a way to win votes is something I’ve always tried to avoid and to persuade others of. There’s all the more reason to take that view after this week’s court ruling.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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16 Comments

  • Seems very unfair to say that Carina Trimingham lost her right to privacy because Chris Huhne said he valued his family in his leaflets. After all, she was not officially part of his family!

    I don’t understand why she lost her right to privacy regarding her sexuality when Max Mosely was held to have a right to privacy over his sexual proclivities.

  • @Alan Macro
    “I don’t understand why she lost her right to privacy regarding her sexuality …..”

    She did admit in court that she had sold stories about the sex lives of other people (including one Nick Clegg), so perhaps it was a case of “live by the sword, die by the sword”.

  • – this is blurring the issue, it’s not about the family as such, it’s about claiming something which is aiming to mislead the electorate about yourself… what it really means to say is ‘if you are going to set out to decieve the electorate don’t put your family in harm’s way by involving them in your lies’. Doing so simply says that you value your own ego above them, and the media are right to go after you if you do.
    It is right to show that you have a family, as it gives the voter a flavour of the sort of person you are, and it also shows that your family are supportive of what you are trying to do. However it is vital that they understand what you are doing and how any reference or photo is to be used.

  • Ruth Bright 26th May '12 - 9:46pm

    There is quite a lot of pressure on candidates to use family pictures – not so much in FOCUS but in those awful “Talk of the Town” magazine things used in target seats that are meant to look like “OK” or “Take a Break”. I think the nadir was reached when one of our MPs used an election mag to tell the electorate how his wife’s waters broke in their LOCAL church and how the baby was born in the (you guessed it) LOCAL hopital. Maybe a teeny bit too much information!

  • David, you digress from the point which is, don’t portray yourself in a leaflet in a way that could come back to haunt you. Clearly if you involve your family in it then their interests need to be considered too, and you must avoid claiming something that an opponent can easily make hay with. And better that any person in a photo is anonymous, unless ‘who’ they are has clear relevance.

  • Dave (Page) is there any evidence that they are an effective way of getting people to vote for a candidate? They have always seemed like a tremendous waste of money to me – more of a leaflet writer’s wet dream than anything with any proven vote winning value.

  • Ruth Bright 28th May '12 - 8:01am

    Ed – there seems to be a widespread belief (largely among the youngish graduate males who write the election material) that these cheesy/family leaflets appeal to less educated older female voters. I can’t believe there’s any proof to back this up.

  • Ed/Ruth – I have asked about this before and I remember being told that there is some evidence to back up that they work from the first couple of times they were used which I think might be Hartlepool and Sedgefield. Unfortunately I now can’t remember what the evidence said though. The style of magazine does vary from place to place though as one I’ve seen from Westmorland & Lonsdale looked a bit more like one of those country lifestyle magazines such as Yorkshire Life.

  • “I remember being told that there is some evidence to back up that they work from the first couple of times they were used which I think might be Hartlepool and Sedgefield. ”

    Both of which we lost though. I did some canvassing in a street on the Sunday evening after I think the magazine was delivered on the Saturday which was awful – and in an area which looking at the housing type should have been strong for us.

    @Ruth – they are style on the type of magazine with a high proportion of lower social class, mainly female readers so there is probably something in that. That however is a group which is the least likely to support the Lib Dems from polling I’ve seen – and also in all probability has low turnout rates. Whether they are the best demographic to be chasing in crude electoral terms is open to debate.

    As they cost (roughly) 2-3 times the cost of a tabloid I’m not convinced they are worth it in “bangs per buck” terms.

  • Ruth Bright 30th May '12 - 5:48pm

    Hywel – agreed. Everything those mags do can be done just as well (probably a lot better) by a colour campaign tabloid. I know you are not saying this but the type of voter who reads “Take A Break” or a similar magazine should not be defined solely by that readership. I am sure that many women voters who read that sort of thing also regularly watch and digest a serious TV news bulletin.

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