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Saturday, 10 April 2010

1906: The Postcard Election

Much has been made of this year's election in the UK being driven by new media - YouTube, Twitter, Facebook...

But it's not the first to have been influenced by new forms of communication. In fact, parties at every election in modern times have grappled with new ways of getting their messages across - whether it was the first political broadcasts on TV in the 1950s or the rise of rolling news in the 90s.

In the year leading up to the February 1906 election in which Campbell Bannerman's Liberal Party won big, postcards were a key battleground.

An astounding 677 million postcards were sent in 1905. And politicians were keen to get in on this. Today's card shows an example of how.

Campbell-Bannerman had just taken over as PM from the "Balfourian gang" and was set to call an election, much to the delight of our anonymous author ("Hail, hail, Oh hail! Our glorious Banner-man.)

What hit me first about this card was that someone had taken the time to write a poem for a friend on the qualities of a political leader. I simply can't imagine anyone today writing a ditty about Glorious Gordon, Super Cam or the Mighty Clegg.

But there's also the quality of the communication.

New social media - for all their wonder - put a great emphasis on one-to-many communication. And with that, the impact of each message falls. Status updates, tweets and round robin emails are easy to ignore.

A one-to-one message like this though had to be taken seriously. Of course, it would be a while before Miss J H Cameron's opinion counted at the ballot box. But that's another story...

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