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Labour for Security

By Laura Beers, Assistant Professor at the American University, Washington DC

‘Labour – For Security’ was one of a series of nine posters which Philip Zec, the cartoonist for the populist newspaper The Daily Mirror, produced for the Labour Party’s 1945 general election campaign.  Zec drew up the posters in a single week, ‘working day and night’.  While several posters, such as the one shown, featured civilians, the two most famous were an image of a solider with the accompanying caption ‘This is our chance to Labour for him’, and a composite portrait of the armed forces – ‘Help them finish their job’. These posters explicitly associated the Labour Party with the sacrifices of Britain’s armed forces and insisted that only Labour could guarantee these men the future they deserved. The Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, described the posters’ appeal as directed primarily at women casting a proxy vote for their loved ones overseas.

On election day, the Mirror ran a front-page leading article ‘Vote for them’ opposite a reproduction of Zec’s VE-day cartoon ‘Don’t lose it again’ in which a battered solider returned ‘victory and peace’ to the British people. The similarities to Labour’s election propaganda were not coincidental. The Mirror’s headline was inspired by a letter to the paper from an Essex housewife who had declared that ‘I shall vote for him’, in reference to the hopes of her solider husband for a better Britain. The Mirror’s editor discussed the notion of running a campaign around this theme with Morrison, who strongly supported the idea, and later appropriated it for Labour.