Voting in Edinburgh 2017 (or Auckland 2013 or Stratford 2010…)

 

I’ve not that long moved through to Edinburgh, so the forthcoming council elections will be my first in this city. Having got through the post the other day my first and to date only election communication/advert for the upcoming local authority vote, I read it carefully and with interest. Turns out the Conservatives are quite into recycling (at least, when it comes to the words in their campaign leaflets), which I was not expecting…

FullSizeRender

It seems according to the leaflet my Conservative candidate, Mark Brown (@mr_mark_brown), is being supported by Ruth Davidson, which makes sense (and would be a bit odd if he wasn’t, given they are members of the same party). I also note, as an aside, that in a small boxout containing four paragraphs from Ruth, she uses the word “independence” three times – which is also strange, given that as far as I’m aware local council elections don’t tend to have a direct say in constitutional changes. The only URL given to find out more about the party’s policies in this local election is given as ‘scottishconservatives.com/No2indyref‘. Leaving aside the indyref reference, why does the Scottish Conservative party have a website hosted on an American .com domain, as opposed to a more unionist friendly .org.uk or even a .scot domain? They could have a much shorter address if they wanted to use conservatives.scot or similar.

Anyway…

Back to Mr Brown, who the leaflet mentions stood previously as a Conservative candidate in 2012 (I assume unsuccessfully). A bit of googling shows up his pitch from 2012, which is oddly similar to the leaflet today in 2017 (although apparently his out of the office hobbies have changed from cricket and rugby to football)…

From 2012 [Source]: 
Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 01 55

He manages a portfolio of SME companies for a global independent Invoice Financier in the City’s Southside. Outside the office, Mark enjoys playing Cricket for the Woodcutters CC & Holy Cross CC, and was President of Broughton Rugby Club from 2006-2011.
Mark is looking forward to meeting as many local residents as possible between now and the election to find out what the real issues are on the doorsteps throughout the ward.
He said, “I am proud to have been selected as the Conservative candidate in the Drum Brae / Gyle ward. This is a ward that plays an integral role in shaping Edinburgh’s economy, through it being home to many of the key players in the financial industry and the iconic Gyle Shopping Centre. It’s also a great part of Edinburgh in terms of its recreational facilities and green spaces.
My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council. This will only come from understanding the needs and aspirations of the people that politicians are here to serve. Politicians must stop seeing themselves as a special breed, destined to the ‘statesmen’.
I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives. We must always work towards a bigger and better Edinburgh and whilst maintaining core political principles, I am more than willing to work with others in the multi-member Ward to deliver a blueprint to help shape Edinburgh’s future.”

From the 2017 leaflet:
“[Mark] manages a portfolio of SME’s for a global independent Invoice Financier in the City’s Southside. Outside the office, Mark is a volunteer at Spartan’s Football Club where his is their media manager and also enjoys a passion for photography.

Mark is looking forward to meeting as many local residents as possible between now and the election to find out what the real issues are on the doorsteps throughout the ward.
He said, “This is a ward that plays an integral role in shaping Edinburgh’s economy, through it being home to many of the key players in the financial industry and the iconic Gyle Shopping CentreProtecting our open green spaces – of which the ward has several – is key because in a city like Edinburgh, public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.”
“I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council. I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives. We must always work towards a bigger and better Edinburgh and whilst maintaining core political principles, I am more than willing to work with others in the multi-member Ward to deliver a blueprint to help shape Edinburgh’s future.

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with re-using your own pitch from a few years before, although given it was unsuccessful previously, seems a little lazy to be copying and pasting it all quite so wholesale. But some of the bits of text seemed to have a different provenance…

This is an odd phrase that’s changed slightly and been upgraded in importance from the 2012 to 2017 sales pitch:

Mr Brown, 2017: “Protecting our open green spaces – of which the ward has several – is key because in a city like Edinburgh, public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.” 

Turns out it is astonishingly similar something a candidate for the Mayor of Auckland, New Zealand said in 2013: Uesifili Unasa, said “As mayor, protecting our open, green spaces is my commitment to healthy communities. In a city like Auckland public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.”.

Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 02 03[Source]

And how about Mr Brown’s central and repeated commitment that “I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council” ? He’s been very consistent on that from his initial go at Edinburgh Drum Brae in 2012 “My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council” to his attempt to stand in the Westminster elections in the Western Isles in 2015 (“My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership at Westminster” – [Source]). 

Oddly, a very similar phrase also turns up in Stratford on Avon in 2010, ‘My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for Change and a time for Leadership”… said the successfully elected Conservative MP for the area, Nadhim Zahawi:

Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 01 25[Source].

Much of the rest of Mr Zahawi’s text is also quite inspirational, as it turns out: 
Mr Zahawi, Stratford, 2010: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems, and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.” 

Mr Brown, Western Isles, 2015: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.

Mr Brown, Edinburgh, 2017: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems, and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.” 

So this is a message that can be successful, it would seem (despite the word ‘represent’ disappearing between 2015 and 2017), but possibly not just in Drumbrae … ?

I have nothing against Mr Brown and wish him the best of luck in this campaign, but it does strike me that if you’re not able to produce three basic paragraphs of genuinely new text about your personal and political beliefs and how you will help the people of this ward if elected, it at the very best doesn’t look like you’ve made much of an effort, and at worst if this was a student essay it would be clearly flagged as containing plagiarised material…

I look forward to receiving similar leaflets from other candidates so I can check their own re-use or recycling of materials!

 



 

 

 

 

About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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