Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016 Welsh Assembly election communications overview

I’ve been doing my reviews of electoral communications for a few years now (see an overview of the trends here). We have just over a week to go until the next Assembly election, so here’s my overview of the bumf we’ve had through the door so far.

Lots of people want our vote...

I’m going to use the same marking system as I did back in 2015. Candidates are awarded points for:
~ number of pieces of bumf through the door
~ number of definite promises they make
~ number of ways they offer you to get in touch, not including generic websites
~ number of different candidate photos, with bonus points if they are with the party leader
~ a point for bilingual Welsh/English leaflets
Candidates are dinged points for
~ the number of other people they blame for the mess we're in,
~ number of negative comments about other parties (mud slinging)
~ photos of politicians belonging to other parties
~ meaningless ‘slogan’ promises e.g. ‘I’m going to fight for Welsh jobs’
And new for this year, I’m going to ding for typos because if you can’t be arsed to proofread your leaflet then you should be punished.

This time round I’m going to list them alphabetically by party name.

Party: Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party
Candidate: none (they’re only going for the regional vote)
Points awarded
bumf = 1
promises = 1 (abolish the Welsh Assembly)
contact = 0
candidate photos = n/a
Cymraeg = 0
total = 2
Points deducted
blame = 1 (the Welsh Assembly is at fault for everything, it seems)
mud slinging = 0
photos of opponents = 0
sloganeering = 0
typos = 1 (“A talking supermarket that we didn’t wants and time has shown...)
Verdict: this has all the hallmarks of a lone nutter with a grudge against the Welsh Assembly. One of the comments in the leaflet is ‘What has the Welsh Assembly ever done for us?’ Well, er, kept our NHS true to its ideals and in a related note given us free prescriptions.

Party: Green Party
Candidate: Anthony Slaughter in the constituency and four others on the regional list
Points awarded
bumf =2
promises = 0 (lots of slogans)
contact = 3 (Twitter, Facebook, personal email)
candidate photos =5 (all four regional candidates, including Anthony and a different one of Anthony on the constituency leaflet)
Cymraeg =2 (both leaflets fully bilingual)
total = 12
Points deducted
blame = 0
mud slinging = 0
photos of opponents = 0
sloganeering = The constituency leaflet has 6 things that a “Green voice in the Senedd will fight for” but with no concrete options. There’s another one on the regional leaflet, so 7 slogans in total.
typos = 1 (they medded up their bullet points on the regional leaflet)
Verdict: On a personal level I agree with all their aims, but it feels like wishful thinking. If they had put one concrete idea behind any of their pledges I’d take them more seriously. How are they going to deliver “Sustainable and vibrant communities” for example? What does that even mean?

Party: Labour
Candidate: Vaughan Gething
Points awarded
bumf = 2
promises = 6 (e.g. create 100,000 new apprenticeships, NHS treatments fund, free childcare
contact =6 (Twitter, Facebook, email, mobile number, personal website, real world address)
candidate photos = 5 across the 2 leaflets. One of them is in front of the Grange fish bar. Yeah!
Cymraeg = 0
total = 19
Points deducted
blame = 0
mud slinging = 2 (The Tories are a threat to education and local government services)
photos of opponents = 0
sloganeering = 0
typos = 0 (although some of the text has flowed a bit wrong on one of the leaflets)
Verdict: Vaughan spends a lot of his communication talking about what he has achieved as the Assembly Member for the past term. There’s a big bit bigging up NHS Wales. He also has three local residents endorsing him, which is a nice touch. 17 is the best score Labour have ever achieved in these ratings.

Party: Plaid Cymru
Candidate: Dafydd Trystan Davies (but we also got one for Cardiff Central candidate Glyn Wise)
Points awarded
bumf = 3 (although one is probably a mistake)
promises = 9
contact = All generic so 0 (oof, these are the easy points in this scoring system)
candidate photos = 2 (possible more on the regional leaflet, but it’s unclear)
Cymraeg = 3 – properly bilingual throughout
total = 17
Points deducted
blame = it’s all Labour’s fault, apparently. 1 point.
mud slinging = 5 different pops at Labour
photos of opponents = 0
sloganeering = 4 and lots of promises to “work tirelessly” if elected
typos = 0
Verdict: The leaflets mention how Labour have had 17 years in power “with little to show for it” but neglect to add that a good chunk of that was in coalition with, er, Plaid Cymru. Bit of an omission.

Party: Women’s Equality Party
Candidate: none (regional list only)
Points awarded
bumf = 2
promises = 0
contact = 0 (but they do have English and Welsh hashtags)
candidate photos = 1, possibly? It’s of 4 women, one of whom is wearing a Women’s Equality badge
Cymraeg = 1 (but only just – the Welsh side doesn’t have a photo and looks like an after-thought)
total = 4
Points deducted
blame = 0
mud slinging = 0
photos of opponents = 0
sloganeering = 3, although there is a lot of positive thinking without any substance behind it
typos = 0

Party: UKIP
Candidate: Mohammed Sarul-Islam
Wait, he’s not our candidate. He’s standing in Cardiff Central! DISQUALIFIED!
Can't vote for you
even if I wanted to!

For interest, here’s the promises in Mr Islam’s leaflet:
Introduce locally elected health boards
Introduce university technical colleges to teach vocational trade skills
Reintroduce grammar schools
Cut fees for STEM students
Devolve economic development powers to local councils
Scrap the Severn Bridge tolls

And here are the meaningless unsubstantiated slogans:
Support long-term investment in staff and resources for a better NHS
Treat cancer as a top priority
UKIP will hold the Welsh Government accountable
Bring jobs into the local area

And this statement that isn’t really a promise or anything:
UKIP opposes tax raising powers being devolved to the Assembly without a referendum (they love their referendums)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On the trail of cartoonists at the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

Last weekend we were in my one-time hometown, Shrewsbury, for the Cartoon Festival. It's been going for 13 years and this was the first time we went.

On the Friday night we went to an illustrated talk by Tony Husband, who draws the comic strip 'Yobs' in Private Eye. Tony was talking about his book of cartoons called 'Take care, Son', which chronicles his father's descent into dementia and the impact that had on the family. It was by turns moving and funny, and as you'd expect given the subject matter, very sad. Tony presented it very honestly - talking about how difficult things became when his father was phoning him up to 80 times a day, and how he felt when he visited his father in the care home. "He always used to stand by the window to watch us leave to make sure we felt the maximum amount of guilt."

Tony is now presenting about his experience to a wide number of organisations and companies who are training staff to help customers who have dementia. The humour in the talk was never at his father's expense and I'm sure the way Tony manages to explain the situation and maintain the dignity of his father is a great lesson in itself for people who come into contact regularly with people who have dementia.

We bought a copy of the book and posed for a photo after he had signed it and drawn a Yob in it for us.

Also present at the presentation was Hilary Price, an American cartoonist whose comic strip is called 'Rhymes with Orange'. We discovered this years ago on the web and one of her cartoons, 'True Microwave Settings' was stuck on our microwave for years. Hilary was there with her mum and her aunt. We had a book of her cartoons and when Cathy pulled it out of her bag to ask Hilary to sign it, her Mum told us "I love you already!"

After getting over her surprise that we had her book, and signing it, and asking us if we were cat or dog people and drawing us a dog when I said dog people, she also posed for a photo with us.

The next day we went into the town centre. Next to the mediaval market hall, the festival had several gazebos for the cartoonists to draw large scale cartoons.  Tony had redrawn several of his Private Eye cartoons. The one bottom left (ho ho) is one of my favourites. (Click on it and it will be readable.)

Hilary was there, drawing a large scale cartoon as well. She remembered us from the night before, hopefully not because we came across like stalkers. It was a sunny day but bitterly cold as can be seen from the very necessary coats.

There were quite a few activities available and even I had a go, drawing my 'man with eager to please expression' on the blackboard they had out for the kids.

We came back later and he had been rubbed off. Ah well. Maybe I should actually draw some cartoons with him in.

It was an enjoyable event and I'm really pleased to have met two cartoonists whose work I admire. I'm very lucky to have met a few of my cartooning heroes over the years and if this festival carries on I may get to meet some more.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Turning 40: Some of my friends brought art - part 1

As mentioned in the previous post, I wanted to have a party for my 40th but have more than enough stuff and didn't really want people to feel they had to bring me presents. So I suggested they help me fill a farmyard with virtual animals (although they are real in other places) and / or help me to 'fill a wall' with art.

Here's some of the art people brought. I've shared some of these on Facebook already. They are from the grown ups who came. The kids' art will have to wait for a separate post.

So, first of all, Cathy created this piece which I'm calling 'Rainbow Pencils'.

'Rainbow Pencils'
Artist: Cathy Matthias
Mixed Media (pencils, ribbon)

Cathy gave me this a few weeks in advance of the party. The next person to give me some art was my sister in law, Abby. She knitted me a Boba Fett and also two vikings - a warrior and his warlike wife. The boat is made from cardboard and packing tape and was mainly used to protect them while travelling, but I kinda like it.

'Knitted Bounty'; 'Warrior Couple'
Artist: Abigail Bick
Knitted wool and mixed media

The next person to bring something for the wall was Connor, who came along early to help us set up for the party (because he's a star). He managed to incorporate my favourite building toy into his piece.

'Jon breaks free'
Artist: Connor Knapton
Mixed media
Then as people arrived, the art was hung up thick and fast and I can't remember what order these came in. Anyway, my friend Tom had kept his artistic talents under wraps. I'd never seen any drawings he'd done before so this took me aback. I particularly like that he had researched which engines I had on my model railway to make sure he drew one I liked. (And I do!)

'Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0'
Artist: Thomas Reay
The things people made were pretty diverse. My friend Kate brought me a cross-stitch.

Artist: Kate Hammond
My friend Jo has a fine art degree and after she gave me her painting I was accused by a couple of other people of pulling off the whole 'Fill a wall' thing just to get my hands on one of her paintings. I'm going to go on record and refute that accusation. However, I do love her paintings. We already have one up in our dining room. This one is instantly recognisable if you have ever visited a certain part of Cardiff. Also I love that it has clearly been raining. (I'm also glad she didn't bring me a picture of a nude man from her life drawing classes, which she had threatened to do.)

'Llandaff North Street Scene'
Artist: Johanna Shepherd

Both Jo and the next artist to be featured are American. Katharine is a brilliant line drawing artist. A few weeks ago we were round her house and I mentioned the Wombles. Being an American, she had never heard of them so we subjected her to some quality British kids TV programming courtesy of YouTube. As payback, she drew a Womble-ised version of me for my wall.

'Jon as a Womble'
Artist: Katherine Holmes
Ink and paper
And finally, last but not least, Bryan and Elaine produced a digital collage of all the things I loved. Including a manatee. They were also the people who adopted a manatee through the World Wildlife Fund for my virtual farm. This manatee is dreaming of Lego trains, while Boba Fett swims past and Star Lord hangs out poolside reading a Douglas Coupland novel. There's really not much I can say about this. It's quirky and fun and will look great in our hall. We may need to explain it to people who come round, though.

'Jon's Loves'
Artists: Bryan Russ; Elaine Russ
Digital collage

There are some more bits I need to take photos of or scan, plus drawings from the kids. I'm saving those for some future posts.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Turning 40: My friends filled my virtual farmyard

I like virtual gifts. For a small sum of money a person who needs a sheep or a chicken or blankets gets what they need and I get a nice card saying what's been given.

As I have just turned 40 and I wanted to throw a party I wanted to avoid ending up with a ton of presents that I don't really need. I have more than enough stuff.

So I decided to ask people coming to the party that if they really, really wanted to, they could help me fill a wall with home-produced art or fill a farmyard with virtual animals and things.

Some people combined both - my niece Joy drew me a sign for my farmyard.

Every farm needs a sign

And people were incredibly generous. Most people turned up with some little envelope, or my inbox pinged with an email the day before, to say that donations had been made and virtual chickens, sheep, goats, bees (lots of bees!) and even donkeys had been 'bought' on my behalf for people who really needed them.

I was able to display all these by clipping up the cards and by the end of the party my virtual farmyard looked like this:
A full farmyard

For people who like knowing this sort of detail, here's the run down of what ended up on the farm.
  • A queen bee and four other lots of bees
  • At least 4 chickens (2 single chickens and a further gift of chickens plural)
  • 2 donkeys
  • Ducks (at least 2)
  • 4 goats - one of them a nanny goat
  • 3 sets of piglets (so a minimum of 6 little piggies)
  • 5 sheep
  • 3 vegetable gardens
  • One lot of drought resistant crops
  • 2 clumps of useful worms (good for the soil)
  • A pile of poo (useful fertiliser)
  • An adopted manatee (to go in the pond with the ducks)
I was also given a $25 microfinance loan to be loaned out to the person of my choice in the developing world. I'm going to sort that out and blog about it later but it sounds like a brilliant idea.

In a future post I'm going to blog about the art wall that got filled. But I wanted to show off my farmyard first. I'm very grateful to all the people who came to the party and who have helped so many people who are living in challenging situations around the world.