No doubt someone out there is writing a dissertation about the decline of the political poster – an anti-politics mood, changes in technology and a fall in grassroots participation in politics have all played their part. But I do wonder, looking around various constituencies in recent weeks, if perhaps we Tories are more responsible than Labour for the disappearance of posters from Britain’s streets. It’s an impossible thing to measure, but it does seem to me that Conservatives are less keen to put posters in their windows than supporters of other parties.
If that’s true, what might be the reasons for it?
There’s an element of the brand’s reputation at play. The “shy Tories” of 1992 haven’t gone away – a recent poll by YouGov found that people would be more way of telling their friends they were voting Conservative than they would of telling them they were voting Labour. The tendency of fashionable figures in the media, comedy and the arts to rail against the supposed inhumanity of Toryism has long pressured people into keeping their politics private.
There’s also a tendency among Conservatives to be less preachy. Just as the Left does protests to a degree that the right does not, it seems to be inherent to the Tory character not to like the feeling of forcing one’s opinions down others’ throats. For many, a poster feels like an imposition on one’s neighbours, like leafleting at a dinner party.
Finally, and more troublingly, there’s a fear of intimidation. I put a poster for my local candidate up a couple of days ago, and couldn’t help pondering for a second which of my windows it would be least bad to get a brick put through (the one which isn’t over the sofa, since you ask). Nadhim Zahawi has seen one of his campaign posters painted over with racist abuse, and my friend Sam Billett found his house graffitied earlier this week:
— Sam Billett (@TheBillett) April 21, 2015
Of course the best response to such despicable, anti-democratic behaviour is to keep the poster up – or add a few more. But it’s understandable if some people are concerned about such intimidation. Speaking to a couple of candidates they’ve encountered supporters who have decline posters because of exactly that fear - I wonder if any of our readers have had a similar experience?