A party hiding, a party self-obsessed?

There’s nothing quite like a word cloud to bring clarity to some 214 pages of policies. So skipping all the hard work of in-depth policy analysis, is there anything we can learn from the words Labour and the Conservatives use in their respective manifestos?

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(Methodology details below)

What’s in a name?

Yes, that blue blob of words is indeed the Conservative manifesto. You can even, if you try really really hard, find the word ‘Conservative’ in there (promise – look right). There are 41 mentions of ‘Conservative’ and another 19 of ‘Conservatives’ (that’s 60 in total). There are more mentions of the Conservatives or conservative – 68 in total – in the Labour manifesto! You’d have thought the shy Tory theory to apply to voters, not to its front bench. And what of Labour? The party name appears a staggering 318 times! With poll numbers still predicting an embarrassing loss, the PLP certainly do not shy away from the Labour trademark. But what about their leader?

It will probably not surprise anyone that Theresa May’s name comes up 16 times, while Jeremy Corbyn only has the honour of signing his party’s manifesto and then is nowhere to be seen for 121 pages. Is that modesty or is it a party playing hide and seek with its leader?

The details perhaps bring few surprises. Apart from talking a great deal about themselves, Labour also speak more about work, public, services, workers and rights,but also about the Conservatives and the economy. The Tories on the other hand are carrying on with trying to convince everyone they are a party of and for the people. The most common word is their manifesto is ‘people’. They’re also keener to talk about ‘Britain’ and the ‘country’, but also the ‘world’. And quite determined to remind us they’re in power and will ‘continue’ to do so.

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And if you’re curious about what should be the main topic of this election, you’ll need to look for it somewhere else. Labour mention Brexit 20 times, while in the Conservative manifesto it comes up 15 times. And I though that was the whole reason behind the Prime Minister calling this election. I must be wrong.

Note on methodology: it’s straightforward. I took each manifesto, converted it into text, did some very minor text edits (e.g. remove headers from every page), dropped it into a word cloud creator (www.wordclouds.com). I removed the word “will” as it was by far the most common word in each manifesto and added nothing in terms of insight (there are lots of ‘Labour will’, ‘we will’, ‘I will’, not that many “the Conservatives will’) and removed any word that comes up less than 10 times. Spent the remaining 70% of time choosing pretty colours.

Any comments, feedback, constructive criticism are more than welcome, please use the section below.

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