There has been a lot written this week about two triumphant moments in political speech: Obama’s amusing humiliation of Donald Trump and his sombre yet stern response to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But they say all politics is local, so I am going to focus on the borough council elections where I live, a little canal town called Stone in Staffordshire, UK.
Round here, the leaflet remains the medium of choice for making a connection between candidate and voter. Those that dropped through my letterbox this week were all deeply unpersuasive. Keen that some good should come of them, here are my top five tips for how to create a bad election leaflet:
1) Use white letters on a pale background so that electors cannot read your pledges. Pistachio and cyan are the classics.
2) Don’t waste space on pictures of faces, local people or familiar landmarks. Fill it all with text. People love reading. Just one low-resolution head and shoulders shot of the candidate is enough. And don’t smile – politics is a serious business.
3) Keep the reader on his toes by inserting CAPITALS at random, altering your font frequently, using bold and italics liberally. If a voter won’t work to read your leaflet, their vote isn’t worth a thing.
4) Tell us, at great length, where and for how long you have lived within the arbitrary boundaries of the ward of the borough within which you are standing. We are more interested in the location of your house than what you plan to do for the area.
5) Repeat national party slogans with no reference to local issues. An excellent example is “The Government’s plans for health reform threaten to destroy the NHS as we know it. This huge an expensive reorganisation will put frontline services at risk and result in thousands of redundancies”. Resist any temptation to put that in simpler language, or mention any local health services by name. Avoid specifics at all costs.