For as long as there have been contested elections there has been election campaigning: that is, those standing for election and their supporters have endeavoured, by a variety of means, to persuade the relevant electorate to vote for them. Until well into the nineteenth century the main means of persuasion were ‘treating’ (providing electors with alcohol and other forms of largesse) and bribery. The earliest reference to treating was in 1467, while the first authenticated case of outright electoral bribery occurred in the reign of Elizabeth I (O’Leary, 1962: 6–7). Campaigning remained overwhelmingly a local-level activity until the start of the twentieth century when the introduction of the first of the mass media — cheap, mass circulation, national newspapers — along with steady increases in the sizes of constituency electorates led to the development of national campaigning. Local campaigning continued, of course and, as we shall see, has recently been taken much more seriously by the parties. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, however, the parties’ efforts and the attention of the media were mainly focused on the centrally directed and managed national campaign.
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