Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
As the General Election draws nearer, political candidates and their volunteers like to deliver newspaper-style leaflets. These newspapers have neutral titles, but the party affiliations are clear within its articles.
The Chippenham Liberal Democrats’ version is called ‘Wiltshire News’, and was recently stuffed through my door by the incumbent Duncan Hames MP’s team. Along with questioning who do readers trust to be Chippenham’s MP, the main headline bellows:
WILL CONSERVATIVES BULLDOZE WILTSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE?
The article begins:
Wiltshire residents have reacted with astonishment that the Conservative candidate has accepted large amounts of money from a property company with links to a major Tory donor who is coincidentally also involved in another property development company which wishes to build thousands of houses in the Wiltshire countryside.
This long sentence generates many questions: how many residents “reacted with astonishment”? What are these “links”? Why are new houses unwanted? The article elaborates:
One of his other companies has already built 500 houses in Wiltshire and plans to build another 1,500 here – it also has a track record of going to court to overturn local planning decisions with expensive lawyers.
Unless any candidate for Chippenham intends to back legislation amending the current planning laws, then the constituency MP’s views on “local planning decisions” are irrelevant. Also, an MP cannot override the decision of a court. Also, the 2011 census found 470,981 people lived in Wiltshire, so two thousand new homes is only an incremental increase.
Next, the article practices the dark art of insinuation against the Conservative candidate Michelle Donelan:
Ms. Donelan was a surprise choice to stand for the Conservatives in Wiltshire, as she previously declared she would be a “strong northern voice” when she stood for parliament in Yorkshire last time. As a newcomer to Wiltshire whose campaign accepted money from a property developer, people are asking if she really has local people’s best interests at heart.
The article helpfully includes a map pointing to the constituency of Wentworth & Dearne, where Ms Donelan stood in 2010. Seemingly, the Chippenham Liberal Democrats suggest residents should not trust Ms Donelan because she’s not even from round here. That’s a great way to uphold a stereotype.
Furthermore, it is hypocritical of Mr Hames and his team to imply standing for other constituencies renders a candidate untrustworthy. Mr Hames achieved the feat of standing for three different constituencies prior to his 28th birthday, back when the minimum age for candidacy was 21. Mr Hames stood in the Tottenham by-election in 2000, Watford in the 2001 General Election and Westbury in 2005.
This insinuation is also insulting to anyone who has recently moved to Chippenham, or any residents who are actually in favour of new housing in their constituency. It speaks to an insular polity, where outsiders should be treated with distrustful gazes and twitchy curtains.
The Liberal Democrats like to present themselves as the vanguard of the ‘new politics’. The new politics appears to be the same as the old politics: personalities eclipsing policies.