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The semantics of electioneering

Living in what the Tories consider to be a marginal constituency is a bit of a nightmare. I am bombarded with propaganda from their candidate Tania Mathias, who insists on using her title 'Dr' in all communications - probably because her rival, Vince Cable, has a PhD in economics. (I'll hang on to the leaflet, just in case I'm ever forced to change my family GP and need to draw up a list of local practices to avoid.)

The rhetoric is now becoming more and more strident. Let's just dissect this wonderful paragraph which sits under a picture of the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg.

"This year's General Election is not like last time - polls are showing the Lib Dems are set to lose many of their seats, which means this time you can't vote Lib Dem in Twickenham and expect to get David Cameron as Prime Minister. You'll risk getting the chaos of Ed Miliband propped up by the SNP - with Alex Salmond calling the shots."

Forget for a moment that Miliband has categorically ruled out any deals with the SNP and certainly will have nothing to do with any formal coalition. Look at the first, rather unwieldy, sentence. I love the implication that last time around, people might have been voting for Vince Cable expecting to get David Cameron. In fact, they voted for Cable because he claimed that he was against Cameron! It's hard to imagine that any of his supporters anticipated the veteran MP would jump so readily into bed with the Tories.

Of course, what the Conservatives actually mean here is that this time around, people might think they can vote for Vince Cable and keep David Cameron at No 10. Dr Tania fears a groundswell of opinion that says that Cable is a good constituency MP (which he is) and that we can hang on to him, while keeping the Bullingdon Club boys in charge nationally. To me her message smacks of desperation, but perhaps it strikes some kind of chord in mansions on Richmond Hill.

One of the funniest aspects of both the Lib Dem and Tory election leaflets is the deliberate attempt to anonymise the rival candidate. The headline above the picture here reads: "Don't risk Britain's future by voting for Nick Clegg's candidate." Would that be the unknown, untested Lib Dem novice the party has decided to field? Or would it be the guy who is currently Business Secretary in the Doc's coalition government?

The Lib Dems, of course, do the same thing in reverse. They tell us that the choice is between Vince Cable and the Tory. No mention of Tania or her medical credentials.

This is warming up to be a humdinger of a campaign.


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