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What the party leaflets tell us
18 May, 2019

Which parties think this election is about the future of Europe?

London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg looks at what the parties’ leaflets tell us they think this election is about. Change UK, Green and the Liberal Democrats think this election is about the future of Europe and stopping Brexit. The Brexit Party, Conservatives and UKIP think it is about Brexit. Labour thinks it is about austerity and who should be in power in Westminster.

 

Manifestos and leaflets

Few people read party manifestos. We have saved you the trouble and published articles with highlights from the European Party Group manifestos and the UK party manifestosTwo parties (Brexit and Conservatives) haven't even bothered to produce one, the former because they judge the absence of detail and a simple message attracts votes, and the latter because it cannot agree one.

But surely many people read the party leaflets that come through almost every household’s door. So it is the leaflets that tell us what the parties really wish voters to think about when deciding where to put their cross on the ballot paper.

Here is a handy site that allows citizens to upload images of leaflets and thus provides an extensive library of election leaflets.

 

What the election ought to be about

Richard Newcombe, Chair of London4Europe, has argued that it is important to take these elections seriously in their own right. They are not a referendum. They are a vote for MEPs to take their place in the directly elected European Parliament and make decisions that will help to determine the future of Europe. He called on all of us to vote “for Europe”.

So what do the leaflets tell us that the parties think this election is about? They divide into three groups.

 

The election is about promoting Brexit

The leaflets of The Brexit Party and UKIP (who sent me their 2-side manifesto when I asked about a leaflet; they have now also produced a separate leaflet) are all about Brexit. That it should happen and that Brexit is being betrayed. UKIP argue that they have the best plan (leaving without a deal). The Brexit Party do not bother with details like the form of Brexit.

The Conservatives’ leaflet is also all about Brexit (apart from a passing reference to a failure to vote Conservative bringing Jeremy Corbyn closer to No 10). It shows how 90% of Conservative MPs have voted for the deal and argues that the deal is workable and delivers Brexit.

 

The election is about Westminster

By contrast, Labour seem to be fighting a referendum on whether to have a UK general election.

Their summary message is: “… this election is your chance to … tell the Tories you are fed up with their … policies and incompetent government.”.

There is no mention of Europe or European policies except in the section on Brexit where Labour retains the misleading and opaque description of its pro-Brexit stance: “Labour would keep a close relationship with the EU that protects workers’ rights and environmental standards. If we can’t get changes to [the Tories’] bad deal or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.”

The complete absence of any EU policy in the leaflet tells us more about the party’s Brexit stance than the Brexit paragraph does.

  

The election is about the future of Europe

The leaflets of Change UK, Greens and the Liberal Democrat Party are different.

The front of the Change UK leaflet introduces the new party - “politics is broken” – an echo of the Brexit Party though with rather different solutions; and makes clear its stance on Brexit: a People’s Vote and Remain. The inside is a merged EU and UK flag with the party’s logo. The back has three proposed priorities for action within the EU (create jobs, climate change, defend free movement) and explains that the NHS will be better in the EU.

The Green Party leaflet gives as its main priorities stopping Brexit (including supporting freedom of movement and a referendum) and acting within the EU to stop climate change. It also references a number of policies to be pursued within the EU such as reducing tax avoidance and a more general call to reform politics.

The Liberal Democrat Party leaflet majors on stopping Brexit. It also gives about 40% of the space to two examples of why it is better to be in the EU. Membership enables joint action to tackle the climate change emergency. Support for freedom of movement both gives our own citizens the opportunity to work in the EU and enables EU citizens to come here and be our friends, neighbours, family and work in the NHS.

 

Conclusion

There are many ways of being “for Europe”.  But in this election it does require the parties to set out some idea of what future EU policies they wish to support – and that they wish the UK to be part of the EU.

Judging on these leaflets, Labour is only interested in getting into Downing Street; while Change UK, Greens and Liberal Democrats are “for Europe”.

 

 

 

The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.