Election Activity

July 2024 Forums World Socialist Movement Election Activity

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    South West Regional branch report:

    We decided that we should carry out some work in the Salisbury area as that is where we meet, despite the fact that none of us live there. So five of us met up and delivered a few hundred leaflets around several roads not too far from where we meet. There were still quite a few leaflets left over and the rest were distributed in Poole, so we managed to use up all the leaflets.
    Our discussion in branch focused on how we might turn the votes we receive into something more concrete and we wondered if in the two areas where we had candidates whether we were able to do canvassing as opposed to just leafleting, as we thought this might give us more idea of some of those who may have voted for us. The point was also raised about doing follow up campaigns in the area where we had candidates as this might prove useful. Of course we do recognise that the main problem with these points is having the numbers to carry out these activities.
    On a final point and concerning the general leafleting around election time we were wondering about how we deal with any responses if, for example, people contact head office and apply for 3 free standards or whatever are those details sent on to the branches concerned so that there can also be a local follow up.
    Overall we felt that given the circumstances surrounding this election the votes we received in Cardiff and Folkestone was not too bad a result.

    “How are the reply rate going? Is the newspaper ad still the better response than the election leaflet?”

    There is no comparison. Replies to the insert in the i paper (which was also about the election) are now approaching 100 while replies to the election communications remain stuck at 2 (1 from each constituency), useful replies, that is, as we had three hostile replies from Folkestone intended only to make us pay the return postage.

    What this shows is that contesting elections to get replies to the free postal distribution is not a reason for contesting. This is not a reason for not contesting, nor even for not using the free postal distribution (since many more will read them than reply and it’s relatively cheap to have even 50,000 printed) as there are other reasons for this, e.g. local activity, national publicity, showing we are apolitically ctive.

    The relative success of the newspaper insert confirms that you get a better response, in terms of replies, if you target a specific group (in this case, for us, the readers of a non-Tory serious newspaper) than if you have a scattergun approach aimed at everybody.


    So what were the respective costs for each project? Overall and per reply?

    Cost of having a candidate standing isn’t the biggest outlay, is it? Its the tens of thousands of leaflets we produce to go along with it.

    I think the free delivery of the leaflets to every constituency household is off-set by the price of  printing, by a large margin.

    So is the answer perhaps to engage in elections for the reasons you outline but not take advantage of the Royal Mail leaflet delivery and instead re-direct the money to a press campaign, running parallel with the candidates standing?

    One question is, can we single out more effectively a particular constituency with a targeted media campaign ?

    I recall those free sheets always carried inserts for the local carry-outs etc. Something to investigate?

    Or would that be too scatter-gun as well?

    To echo someone’s comments elsewhere in the forum…should we be aiming at  “intellectuals” as you infer by “readers of a non-Tory serious newspaper”? 

    Just some idle thoughts…

    We could experiment with various strategies when the next series of local elections arise and the issue of free delivery isn’t relevant.


    There has always been a tension about who we target. Our theory (which says that socialism is an immediate possibility but can only come into being when a majority wants and understands it) means that we are targeting everybody, ie scattergun approach. In practice, however, our immediate aim to build up a larger and more effective socialist party, to campaign for socialism (I hasten to add, since this sounds a bit Trotskyoid, not to leader the workers) and, though I don’t think we’ve ever explicitly said so, to be around when outside events beyond our control spark off a mass movement seeking a way out of capitalism.

    This latter means that we are targeting those who are politically interested and who have the time to be politically active. That is a very small percentage of the population which can’t be more than 5% if that. I wouldn’t call such people “intellectuals” just because they are prepared to read an 800-word article or leaflet. You don’t have to have a college degree to do that.

    My view, for what it’s worth, is that we should be aiming at getting replies, so we can acquaint them more with our case via, in the first instance, a free 3-month trial sub to the Standard,

    As to costs, you’re lucky as I happen to have them to hand as I’m in the middle of preparing a report from the election committee for the January EC Meeting.

    Inserts in the i paper costs £18 per 1,000 + VAT (=£21.60). We had 160,000 inserted, at cost of £3,456. The printing cost £2,045, making a total cost of £5,501. These leaflets weren’t distributed specifically in the constituencies but over the whole of the south of England and Wales and parts of the Midlands. (They didn’t mention that we were contesting and could in fact have been distributed even if we hadn’t been.)

    Printing the 55,000 leaflets for Folkestone cost £722 and the 45,000 for Cardiff cost £1,087 (their leaflet was more elaborate). Cardiff also spent £450 on a display ad in the local evening paper. On top was the election deposit of £500 for each constituency. So, the total cost of the campaigns in the constituencies was £3,259. (This suggests that running a campaign to get free postal distribution could cost as little as £1,200, but don’t expect many responses).

    We also spent £210 on printing 15,000 leaflets for distribution by members and sympathisers outside the two constituencies.

    The total cost of everything (excluding some travel and other minor costs) was £8,970.


    So contesting elections and free delivery of leaflets is the cheaper option.

    Perhaps a re-design of the election leaflet…A larger perforated free-post reply section for instance. What about including a short survey questionnaire in it, too, if Royal Mail regulations permit.

    Perhaps someone can explore those local free-sheets I mentioned and the costs of much more localised inserts, particular in relation to the prospective wards we will probably contest in the next round of council elections. Should be less labour intensive and save weary legs, sore feet and fingers being snapped at by feral letter-boxes.

    Come COP26 in Glasgow, I think the inserts will be the most effective means, than a few elderly members standing around handing out leaflets. They should be hosting the street stalls, engaging in discussions, wearing SPGB themed baseball caps since it won’t be the weather for t-shirts with our logo.



    I am afraid that what you suggest is precisely what Royal Mail does not permit. We tried inserts in a local free paper in Kent but got no response. Apparently “intellectuals” don’t read them. Can’t say I blame them.

    The other odd thing is that our experience shows a better response from the South than from the North or Scotland. Make of that what you will.


    “Apparently “intellectuals” don’t read them.”

    They probably do but very few reside in Kent…   😆


    Here is the election committee’s report on the General Election:

    Election Committee Report on December 2019 General Election

    The Party stood two candidates in the 12 December General Election: in Folkestone & Hythe (a Tory stronghold we had contested before) and Cardiff Central (a Labour stronghold, contested for the first time). The campaigns were organised by the local branches, Kent & Sussex and South Wales respectively. We also inserted an election manifesto in an issue of the i paper distributed in the South of England and Wales and in parts of the Midlands, and had a limited number of leaflets printed for distribution by members and sympathisers outside the two constituencies.

    The campaigns were organised locally, with the work of agent and arranging for the printing and for the free Royal Mail distribution of an election communication to be done there. This didn’t work out perfectly as there was a problem with the printers in Folkestone which had to be dealt with centrally, and it proved easier to deal with Royal Mail for artwork approval and delivery centrally.

    The result in terms of votes was what we expected: 69 (0.1%) in Folkestone and 88 (0.2%) in Cardiff. The campaign was preceded by local activity in both areas which will continue. Local publicity was generated in terms of, in Folkestone, local press publicity and a soundbite on BBC regional TV and, in Cardiff, an interview on an all-Wales online news site; the branch also placed a display ad in the Cardiff evening newspaper. The branches will be able to give a more detailed report of this.

    The total number of leaflets distributed was 55,500 in Folkestone, 45,500 in Cardiff, 160,000 in the i paper, 15,000 outside the constituencies, plus 4,000 of a local newsletter in Folkestone, a total of 280,000.

    The number of replies, mostly by post but some by email and one each by text and by letter has been over 100. All but 2 of these came from the insert in the i paper. Most of these asked for a free 3-month trial subscription to the Socialist Standard. The Enquiries Department will be monitoring how many of these taking out a paying subscription at the end of the period.

    The total cost was: Folkestone printing £722, Cardiff printing £1,087, Cardiff newspaper display ad £450, insert printing £2,045, insert itself £3,456, general leaflet printing £210, a total printing and distribution cost of £7,970. To which can be added the £500 election deposit for both constituencies, making a grand total of £8,970.There will also have been some local incidental costs (travel). The expenses that need to be reported to the Electoral Commission are done by the Party’s Registered Treasurer.

    The result in terms of responses confirmed what we have known for some time: that although it costs relatively little (£1,500, i.e., £1,000 for the printing and £500 for the election deposit), expecting responses to follow up is not a reason in itself for contesting. There needs to be, as there are, other reasons such as branch activity and general publicity, nationally as well as in the constituency. It also confirmed that, although relatively expensive, an insert in the i paper is the best way to get responses; this doesn’t necessarily require standing a candidate anywhere but it is probably helpful to have at least one.


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