Friday, April 30, 2010

General Election: Vote TUV?

In the fifth of our General Election communications review for the constituency of East Belfast, we turn to the newest unionist party on the block, Traditional Unionist Voice, and their candidate David Vance.

With a huge picture of himself on the front, the communication weighs in as a 4 page A4 glossy booklet, with plenty of information on his views, and the wider political issues. However, it is clear that the TUV is seeking to fight its major battle against the dominance of the DUP, having come out from the wings of the DUP (led by Jim Allister) in the aftermath of that party joining the powersharing executive as equal partners with Sinn Fein.

To that end, in the 14 text boxes found throughout the leaflet, 10 of them contain a direct reference to either the DUP or some member of the party, always in a negative connection (unsurprisingly, of course!). Particularly in focus is the person and work of Peter Robinson, with the figures of his (and Iris') expense claims from the last Parliament being quoted several times, as well as the connections between the DUP an Sinn Fein in the Assembly.

The other four text boxes, while not directly referring to the DUP are clearly written with them in mind, seeking to present the TUV as the party able to provide fulltime representation at Westminster, and the party who will not break their election promises (nudge, nudge).

Interestingly, there's also a section on addressing controversial issues of sovereignty (opposing the Lisbon Treaty and calling for a referendum), immigration (using a points system for skilled workers rather than an open door policy), and climate change (which is as a result of 'suspect science').

On the use of photos, it seems strange that Peter Robinson features in as many photographs on David Vance's literature as David Vance does himself - three times each. Now obviously the photos are carefully chosen to maximise the potential damage to Robinson and boost the Vance campaign - so we see Peter Robinson smiling alongside the box alleging that the Robinsons were operating a 'who wants to be a millionaire political lifestyle'; Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness alongside the text arguing that Stormont is a shambles because of the mandatory coalition; and that infamous shot of Peter at his desk and Iris in a full head-back cackle of a laugh which sits beside a call for voters to say 'no to scandal and sleaze.'

So much for the content. Anything to say about what is said? Well, there's no mention of David Vance's previous membership of the Bob McCartney UKUP (who?), and it does seem that most of the arguments are (again) on issues connected to Stormont, and not Westminster - for which this election has been called. You almost get the feeling that these leaflets could be reused at the next Assembly election without alteration - except that one sentence needs to be changed to make some sense.

'If you expect better then vote for a man who'll be there do the job - vote Vance x.'

I really do expect better - someone 'to' do the job of proofreading, never mind representing East Belfast!

Once again, there's no reference to social media, but there is a website specifically for the campaign, which has a live twitter feed for his campaign.

It's hard to know how the result will turn out - perhaps the rage at Peter Robinson's performance in the past will be raised and focused by this election communication, and Vance can turn enough people to win the seat. I just don't know.

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