Object of the Month – May 2015

May 2015 - Social Democratic Party poster, 1983

In April 2015, when the Liberal Democrats announced their manifesto, they claimed that in government they would ‘add a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one’. They believe that ‘the era of the single party government is over’ and in the build up to the general election, many people are debating which parties will enter a coalition government in 2015. If the Lib Dems join the Conservative Party in a coalition, they aim to stop them from cutting too much, and if they join the Labour Party, they aim to stop them from borrowing too much.

Liberal Democrats poster, 2015

What is interesting about this Wizard of Oz metaphor is that in 1983 the Social Democratic Party-Liberal Alliance Party (which merged into the Lib Dems) produced a very similar poster. This 1983 poster shows Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher as the Tin Man, thinking ‘If I only had a heart’ in an attempt to criticise her free market policies and the high rate of unemployment. The Labour Party leader Michael Foot is represented as the Scarecrow, wishing he had a brain, as a criticism of his failure to provide a legitimate alternative to the Conservative Party.Social Democratic Party poster, 1983. Courtesy of the Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex

(Poster courtesy of the Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex)

This poster is an example of how elections have changed throughout history. In 1983, the newly-formed SDP-Liberal Alliance were attempting to set themselves apart from both the Conservatives and Labour, giving the public another choice. However, now the consensus is that there will be another coalition government and the Lib Dems have tried to establish themselves as the middle ground, a centre party willing to join either the Conservatives or Labour.

This poster is currently on display in Election! Britain Votes, an exhibition all about elections and voting. Election! is running until Sunday 28 June 2015.