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Devolution and the Scottish ConservativesBanal Activism, Electioneering and the Politics of Irrelevance$
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Alexander Smith

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719079696

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719079696.001.0001

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Disaggregating the secret ballot: electioneering and the politics of self-knowledge

Disaggregating the secret ballot: electioneering and the politics of self-knowledge

(p.86) 6 Disaggregating the secret ballot: electioneering and the politics of self-knowledge
Devolution and the Scottish Conservatives

Alexander Thomas T. Smith

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines one important challenge for the Conservative Party's senior strategists as they sought to address their apparent ‘crisis’ of irrelevance: how to establish the voting intentions of potential supporters in what is otherwise an election by secret ballot. Working within various legal constraints, Conservative activists in Scotland developed a variety of strategies to render the Electoral Roll ‘transparent’ so that the political allegiances of thousands of local voters could be discerned (imagined). The chapter analyses two particular discursive artefacts – the survey and the canvass sheet – as performing a politics of self-knowledge for local Tories, and also considers the target letter, through which senior Conservatives hoped to achieve a positive outcome for local Party candidates in the forthcoming elections. Almost inevitably, however, Tory activists became preoccupied with the banal concerns of designing, producing and distributing these various discursive instruments, in addition to the most efficient bureaucratic means of managing the canvass and other data they generated.

Keywords:   Scotland, Conservative Party, elections, secret ballot, Electoral Roll, survey, canvass, politics, self-knowledge, target letter

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