The Challenge of Symbolic Communication
The rise of mass communication and overhaul of Labour’s publicity machinery in 1917–18 did not result in the abandonment of more traditional electioneering practices and indeed these continued to dominate inter-war campaign efforts. In discussing the ‘Organisation of Propaganda’, Labour Organiser editor Herbert Drinkwater considered new developments such as cinema before concluding that the key tools were still the meeting, doorstep visits and leaflet rounds. Such approaches were the direct equivalents of Ostrogorski’s earlier ‘trilogy of electoral action’ that identified ‘the stump’, ‘the canvass’ and ‘political advertising’ as the main elements in nineteenth century electioneering.1 Drinkwater’s attitude was understandable given the relative abundance of volunteers for this kind of work constituted one of the few ample resources Labour could rely on. The commitment to maintain direct-voter contact characterised the party’s approach well into the twentieth century as Butler observed of the 1951 election: ‘Its very amateurishness helps the Labour organisation to breathe the same air as the people to whom it is appealing’.2
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