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

Alexander Thomas T. Smith

in Devolution and the Scottish Conservatives

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780719079696
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703052 | DOI:
Disaggregating the secret ballot: electioneering and the politics of self-knowledge

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  9007 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.