Tag Archives: Conservative Party

A century of political design: Dole Queues and Demons

Saatchi & Saatchi’s famous Labour Isn’t Working poster of 1978

In his forward to Dole Queues and Demons, Maurice Saatchi claims that posters are to politics ‘what poetry is to literature: the only possible words in the only possible order. They should instantly convey the core message in a memorable way. This requires a handful of words, each of which is perfectly chosen, married to an image which reinforces them. When this happens posters can be the single defining medium of a campaign.’

This poster, from 1929, plays on the idea of unpopular government regulators ‘sticking their nose’ into the Englishman’s home


Dole Queues to Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive offers powerful insight into the impact of poster design on a political campaign. From the early Edwardian posters – colourful in both pigment and content – to the pointed posters of Saatchi in the 1980s, many of the political themes have remain the same, but the ways in which they were expressed had the power to make or break campaigns.

Early posters like this one from 1909 often addressed issues like free trade and protectionism (and here, Lloyd George)


Divided into chapters based on political periods, the book offers over 200 examples of posters drawn from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection. The images are accompanied by historical background written by Dr Stuart Ball, political historian from the University of Leicester, with a foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi.

By 1992, Saatchi & Saatchi’s simple and bold posters had become the Party norm. Here, an ‘L’ plate hinted at what the Conservative’s believed to be Labour’s inexperience


The book will be available from the Conservative Party Archive stand at the Party Conference next month (stalls P10 & P11 – Hall 3 in the Party Zone) as well as from the Blackwell’s Bookshop stand. 

Dole Queues and Demons on Huffington Post

Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive was featured in a brief Huffington Post piece and slideshow on ‘The Art of Elections’. It offers a sneak peek into a few of the posters we included in the book, which is now available through the Bodleian Library Bookshop as well as other major retailers.

Image © Conservative Party Archive Trust

Parliament Week

Just a quick note to say that the Conservative Party Archive featured prominently as a part of the Bodleian Libraries’ participation in UK Parliament Week. Parliament Week is a new national initiative supported by both Houses of Parliament that aims to increase awareness of Parliament and its work as well as encourage participation in the democratic process.

The theme for this year was ‘Stories of Democracy’, and the Libraries highlighted items and collections relating to democracy and Parliament in the United Kingdom, from the Magna Carta to the Conservative Party Archive.

All the week’s posts can be found on the Libraries’ Parliament Week pages. The CPA features in the following:

In addition, Conservative Party Archivist Jeremy McIlwaine spoke to Culture 24 about the work and contents of the Archive; the interview is up on the Culture 24 website

Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive

Just in time for the Conservative Party Conference (and early Christmas shopping):

Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive

Text: Stuart Ball
Foreword: Maurice Saatchi

Published 3 November 2011; see a preview copy and place your order at the Conservative Party Archive stand at the Party Conference, 2-5 October.

Pre-order form available

A unique blend of graphic design, bold art or photography and cunning psychology, election posters are an unsung art form, stretching back to the dawn of the twentieth century. Exploiting the Conservative Party Archive’s collection of over 700 posters, this book charts the evolution of the Conservatives’ election posters.

Divided into chapters along political periods, the book highlights the changing fashions in and attitudes to advertising, political ideology, slogans, combativeness and above all, propriety. Each chapter includes a brief introduction discussing the major themes of the period as well as captions explaining specific issues related to the individual posters.

Lavishly illustrated, Dole Queues to Demons gives a fascinating insight into the issues and strategies of the Conservative Party throughout the twentieth century, and up to the present day. A foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi discusses the posters from a communication and design perspective. This book will fascinate anyone interested in social and political history and modern communications. Published at a time when the advent of new media threatens to herald the end of traditional forms of mass communication, this book takes a timely retrospective look at this enduring feature of the British electoral landscape.

On this day in 1954: Food rationing ends after 14 years

‘Rationing ends this weekend. Appropriate enough, the first day of freedom is July 4th – Independence Day.

Gone are coupons, counterfoils, ration periods, registrations, and all the paraphernalia of Food Office rule. Here at last is the ‘Victory Day’ for housewives, wistfully anticipated by Dr. Edith Summerskill when she was at the Ministry of Food in 1946. Under a Conservative Government scarcity has been replaced by abundance, austerity by variety, restriction by choice, and frustration by freedom.

 (CCO 4/6/342)

At midnight on 3 July, the rationing limits initiated in January 1940 finally ended. Members of the London Housewives Association held a ceremony in Trafalgar Square to commemorate the occasion, while Minister Geoffrey Lloyd burned his ration book.

Rationing began in the UK on 8 January 1940 with limits on butter, bacon and sugar. Wartime efforts – including the North Sea blockade – made it difficult to ensure the availability of certain everyday provisions. Petrol had been rationed since 1939, and button and bacon were soon followed by meat, tea, eggs, sweets and more. By the end of the war, most common foodstuffs were limited as well as clothing, cigarettes and other necessities. Ration books (click here for examples) were issued to all citizens based on age and status (pregnant mothers, for instance, were often granted higher rations). 

Weekend Talking Point addressing reactions to the end of rationing (CCO 4/6/342)

Citizens were encouraged to do their part on the ‘Kitchen Front’ and grow their own food; price gauging and unlawful rationing were subject to heavy fines. Nevertheless, people quickly tired of shortages. Rationing continued post-war as industrial action and rebuilding efforts in Europe disrupted the food supply. The Conservatives’ 1950 general election manifesto urged the end of rationing, which they portrayed as an effect of a Socialist government and ‘incompetence.’  Following a Conservative return to power in 1951 and the stabilization of the European economy, rationing was slowly phased out; meat was the last product to become freely available.



And we’re off!

The 2010 general election is now upon us! To mark the occasion, we’ve pulled out some posters and flyers from the 1910 election – just to give a snapshot of elections 100 years ago.

There were in fact two general elections in 1910; the January election, dominated by disagreement over Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’, resulted in a hung parliament and required a coalition between the reigning Liberals and the Irish Nationalists. Another election was called in December, but again, neither party managed to command a majority; the Liberals, led by H.H. Asquith, remained in place as the nation’s leaders, backed by the Irish Nationalists for a second time.

Free Trade was on everyone’s minds; the electors were also worried about naval strength.
Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ proved extraordinarily controversial; it called for increased taxes, including a land tax, in order to pay for social spending in areas such as pensions. The House of Lords vetoed the Budget, leading to renewed debates over House of Lords reform – generating the sort of sentiments shown in the poster below.



All images and text © Conservative Party Archive Trust

Conservative Easter Eggs

Happy Easter from the Conservative Party Archive! We recently uncovered this cartoon in our archives and thought it would make a timely post, given its assortment of political Easter eggs.

A bit of background for our readers…The cartoon was published in the Conservative Party monthly magazine The Man on the Street in April 1926. At that point, the nation was one month away from the General Strike and full of worries about Socialism, trade, and – as always – the economy.

The cartoon portrays various politicians confronting their own political issues. In the top left corner, Lord Asquith struggles to put a lid on David Lloyd George’s land policy, which advocated increased nationalisation. Opposite Asquith, Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrestles ongoing budget problems. With the 1926 budget, Churchill introduced a betting tax, while his previous budget restored the Gold Standard.

In the middle of the cartoon sits Tom Shaw. In 1924, Shaw’s House of Commons colleagues pressed him for answers regarding provisions for unemployment; Shaw commented, “Does anybody think that we can produce schemes like rabbits out of our hat?” (see Hansard for 10 March 1924). The remark became a favourite of political cartoonists (and MPs), and he was rarely pictured in The Man in the Street without a rabbit or two.

The bottom left ‘egg,’ a socialist bomb, is presented to Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald containing his critic John Wheatley. The final egg, presented to a British retailer, evokes debates surrounding British protectionism and imperial trade.

Image © The Conservative Party Archive Trust