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The campaign consisted of several different posters, of which three have been exploited to some extent. Many exploits include changing the text and images of the posters, typically to berate the policies of the Conservative party and several of its members and supporters, several of whom are considered to be overly posh and “toff”-like. They additionally played on other minor memes that appeared during the general election, including “I agree with Nick”, “Bigotgate” and the tax-evading scandal of main Conservative donor, Lord Ashcroft.
The first and most well known originated from a vandalised billboard in Hereford, which had painted over Cameron so that he resembled Elvis Presley, altering the text to read “We can’t go on like this. With suspicious minds.” Several other billboards were also vandalised, many of which have been collected on the Vandalised Conservative Billboards Facebook group.
Macros and Generators
Online generators and collections of manipulations where made, most prominently MyDavidCameron.com and Andy Barefoot’s poster creator. Several news outlets caught on to the manipulations happening online including The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror and The Daily Mail.
This meme is unlikely to spread further now that the election has finished – resulting in the election of David Cameron as prime minister in the first British coalition government since World War II (with the Liberal Democrats, a point that has also been played upon) – however there are still some occasional additions being made, usually satirical takes on current events in the new Conservative government.
Commonly manipulated posters
The first poster released (“We can’t go on like this”) consisted of a large image of party leader David Cameron in serious, yet casual attire. The poster was criticised by the media and then-prime minister Gordon Brown for being photomanipulated to make Cameron look younger and cleaner – during one of the three leadership debates, Brown was quoted as saying to Cameron “You can airbrush your face, but you can’t airbrush your policies”. This poster is by far the most replicated and vandalised.
The second poster (“The Tory tombstone”) is of a large tombstone, bemoaning the planned inheritance tax increase by the opposition Labour party, which was advertised as a “Death Tax” by the Conservatives.
The third poster (“I’ve never voted Tory before”) is the most varied of the four poster campaigns. The posters consist of images of normal members of the public, along with a quotation stating that they have never voted for the Conservative party before, however plan to at the upcoming election, usually citing a specific policy from the party. This has also been widely exploited.
The fourth image (“Gordon Brown”) is the only poster that directly attacks another party, in this case the then-incumbent Labour Party and it’s leader, Gordon Brown. The poster features Brown smiling – an expression often belittled as looking unnatural due to Brown’s stereotypically sullen manner – with a quotation typically to do with how the economy, poverty and unemployment have worsened under the previous 13 years under a Labour government. This poster – unlike the previous three – have not been widely manipulated, however have come under criticism for being inaccurate and misleading.
The fifth image (“Benefits”) was released relatively late in the election campaign (up to a week before the election itself) and thus has not seen the same spread as the first three posters did.