I am prepared to concede that I am getting increasingly grumpy as I trundle through middle age. My natural facial expression of bulldog chewing a wasp is matched by the inner blackness of my soul. I would happily shout “Bah Humbug” at passing people, should that phrase actually mean anything.
However the thing that is really getting me ticked off at the moment is politicians. Yes we are all sick of them right now, what with it being election time. But I have a particular complaint. Two particular complaints, to be more accurate. I am sick of politicians treating the electorate as total mugs, ready to fall for anything. And I am also sick of getting letters from them. David Cameron writes to me almost daily.
So today I have come home, after a particularly long and frustrating day, to find a letter on my doormat that has combined my two current pet peeves.
My latest letter comes from a Mrs Halpin. It is addressed to me. It begins
“I am sure you were as shocked as I was to receive the latest copy of the Cheadle Gazette and read about how the Conservative candidate is registered to vote at her family home near Preston.”
As it happens I was not as shocked as Mrs Halpin appears to have been at this discovery. I have read one or thirty of the leaflets posted through my door by the LibDems so I had some inkling that the Conservative candidate was not a local. They may have mentioned it once or twice. Per sentence.
However Mrs Halpin is keen for me to relive her shock at having first discovered this as she read the Cheadle Gazette. So much so that the letter continues
“I enclose a copy of the article in case you have not had the chance to read it.”
And, true to her word, there is a carefully torn out article from the said Cheadle Gazette. Let me share it with you in this photograph as it sits on my kitchen table.
So here we have one concerned local resident, sharing with other residents her shock at having read this article and learned, for the very first time, that the Conservative candidate comes from “41 miles away by car”. Of course the letter goes on to extoll the virtues of the local-living LibDem candidate.
I am someone who looks at the small print. So I see from the bottom of the letter that this is published and promoted on behalf of the aforesaid LibDem candidate. However that should not diminish the power of the message. The message of Mrs Halpin’s shock at this local news story.
Perhaps at this stage I should point out that, having lived in the area most of my life, the Cheadle Gazette was not an independent newspaper that I was familiar with. But still, credit where credit is due, this piece of investigative journalism did lead Mrs Halpin to her discovery that she wanted to share with the rest of us.
One thing though. The Cheadle Gazette. You see when I turned over the torn out article at the top of the page on the reverse it said that the Cheadle Gazette was published and promoted on behalf of that same local-living LibDem candidate. Here is another picture for you. That’s what the small print of the top of the reverse of the page says.
So the LidDems were sending one piece of promotional literature with another piece of promotional literature. But don’t let that detract from the underlying message. Mrs Halpin’s shock at her discovery, as she read this piece of negative campaigning, that she then wanted to share with the rest of us. None of that undermines the power of the message.
Take a close look at the photograph above though. “Look at what local people are saying….” and one of those local people having their say is none other than concerned local resident…. Mrs Halpin.
So what? I hear you cry! Nothing wrong with that. Mrs Halpin probably had her photo taken and the quote recorded and was told it was going to be in the next edition of the Gazette. And it was as she looked through the Gazette that she discovered, much to her shock, that the Tory lives in Preston.
Thankfully news from the local area comes not only in the form of the Gazette. The internet is full of interesting stuff. Like the local-living LibDem candidate’s internet pages. Like this page that describes a busy weekend for Mr Hunter back in 2011 when he went to the Heald Green festival. And if you look closely he was pictured with a beaming “Ted and Rhona Halpin”. Who are wearing exactly the same clothes that they are wearing in the Gazette in the photograph above. What a coincidence? Mrs Halpin, who is so concerned at her shock discovery that she writes to the local residents, is the same person who was giving a quote to the Gazette about the election in 2015 which is accompanied with a photograph from 2011.
So, given all that, do you really think that Mrs Halpin was “shocked” by the story she read in the Gazette?
In fact I would venture to suggest that this would hardly come as a shock to her at all, given the fact that the proposer for one of the LibDem aspirant councillors in the May 2015 election is one Edwin V Halpin. Perhaps better known to the festival goers of Heald Green as Ted? Is there any prospect that the first time Mrs Halpin became aware of the out of town credentials of the Conservative Party candidate was when she read the Gazette?
It will not have been. I have known for months and I have not been pictured with the LibDem candidate at any time from 2011 to now, have never been quoted in the Gazette and am not living in the same household as someone sufficiently involved with the local party that they nominate candidates for the Council.
Now I am not suggesting anyone has broken any election rules, or laws. I stress that the letter and the article from the Gazette are properly marked as political promotional material. I do not doubt Mrs Halpin’s genuine belief in the candidate she supports and do not challenge her right to champion him. I am not suggesting that the candidate she champions does not have many fine qualities.
But it is what the letter purports to say “here I am, local resident writing to local resident about what I have just discovered and sharing it with you to spread my shock at finding this out” that I object to. And it is what it says about the modern politicians’ attitude towards their electorate that really angers me. It is the idea that we will not scratch beneath the veneer one little bit. That we will be entirely taken in by the dressing up of a bit of negative campaigning as genuine concern. That we are such mug punters that their promotional material requires so little thought or substance. That such poorly stage managed letters from activists are going to win them votes.
Is it any wonder there is no trust in politicians?
I am angry because I would like communications from my politicians about what they believe in. What they plan to do. I want them to have vision and integrity. I want to hear them debate with substance. I want to be persuaded to vote for them. Not to be dissuaded from voting for the other guy or girl. Not to be scared into choosing them.
And not to be the recipient of “clever” letters that have my supposed stupidity at the centre of their design.