Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lib Dem Top Trumps

One of the many things I picked up at conference a couple of weeks ago was a set of LDYS's lovely Lib Dem MPs Top Trumps cards. At the time, I thought something along the lines of "oh, that's a fun little idea for political geeks". But oh, how wrong I appear to have been.

Having left them on the table in my room, when they were first noticed I was expecting some admonishment for having spent money on such a thing. Instead, within minutes of their discovery, four of my friends were sat around my room playing with them. It turns out people (students, at any rate) will play top trumps with anything they can find. Or perhaps it's just my friends.

Either way, these have proven to be a great way to force home a few points far more effectively than I might ever be able to do in a more conventional way. Play with these cards for a few minutes, and people start to realise just how many Lib Dem frontbenchers they have actually heard of and know about. They see just how popular some of them are in their own constituencies. They are introduced to the idea that, like any other party, we have plenty of people you don't hear all that much about - backbenchers, basically - and that we're not just the same crowd of maybe 10 people you hear about on the TV (if that).

And of course, it's funny what stands out about someone on their Top Trumps cards. Someone like Willie Rennie, surely a hero as far as Lib Dem lore goes, actually has some seemingly pretty uninspired stats on his card. By the same token, the sheer regularity with which people like David Heath go out to bat is also brought out.

Playing the game using our rules, when ties happen, instead of picking a new stat, we thought it would be more fun to decide who had the "best" photo. By which we seem to mean who looks the most interesting. Fulfilling Lib Dem stereotypes will get you quite far; a beard is an instant advantage. In any such play-off, John Thurso wins hands down with his amazing moustache. Other features considered to be interesting include Paul Keetch's background, in that his picture comes from some conference or other and therefore sees him stood in front of a glowing Libby-bird, bathed in an amber glow. It is perhaps the closest thing I have seen to Lib Dem religious iconography.

Even I have been encouraged to learn more about our parliamentary party, spurred by my inability to remember what someone's portfolio is, or simply by an interest in knowing more about some of the ones I've barely heard of.

So overall, a big well done to LDYS, for producing this handy little aid to familiarising one's friends with the party without it seeming like any effort at all.

UPDATE: Mark has left the following helpful comment:

If you would like a pack LDYS still has about 20 left. Please contact Paul Pettinger at or on 020 7227 1387. They cost £6.95 + 50p postage.


Alex Wilcock said...

Congratulations! I’d not thought of the educational value of these Top Trumps – nor of Paul Keetch as a religious icon. You make me feel much better about them: when I saw them at Conference I thought they were much too dryly ‘factual’. Similarly to your tiebreaker, I couldn’t help making up other categories that should have been on there, from charisma to various political ratings. Maybe it’s the company I keep, but everyone I talked about them with wondered why ‘Shaggability’ wasn’t on there…

Alex Wilcock said...

PS Back when I played Top Trumps more regularly, the less creative but more high-risk rule in the event of a tie was that it would go to the next card, but on the same attribute, so double the number of cards were at stake but both sides were ‘blind’.

I must get out those new Doctor Who ones, even though they’re less entertainingly inaccurate than the old ones were ;-)

Parsing Phase said...

So where do we get a set? ;)

James said...

Perhaps LDYS ought to do a second edition and hold a ballot on things like "charisma" - this would also serve to promote the product which might shift them more packs.

Incidentally, the Sky New "Politicos" Top Trumps were an official Top Trumps branded product. It might be worth approaching them in terms of cutting down costs.

As for classic top trumps, my personal favourite was always the Horror sets (there were two if I recall). Entirely unlicensed, most of the pictures on them were appalling and distinctly neon. In particular, I seem to recall Godzilla being drawn wearing a dinner jacket and dickie bow, which has fundamentally altered my perception of the chap.

Andy said...

Alex: I share your complaint that they are too dry actually. In some cases, the categories are quite similar too; majority and share of the vote, for instance. I would quite like to see some categories like "rebelliousness", for example, which could be equally factual if done properly, but more interesting.

Parsing Phase: I have no idea, I'm afraid. You'd have to ask LDYS.

Auberius said...

If LDYS (or at least the guy who put the numbers together) may answer...

The dryness results largely from the difficulty of objectively measuring things; we thought up all sorts of categories, but then we'd have to make the numbers up which could only lead to rows thereafter (I mean, would you like to have to explain to Lembit why his "Sex Appeal" rating was lower than the Huhne's?) In the end it was easier to pick things that we could absolutely justify ( is a wondrous thing!)

I also felt it was important that there should be no cards that skew the game by being essentially unbeatable; the best card in the game is on average only 11th best in each individual category. TWFY could have given us rebelliousness stats, for example, but they would have been unlikely to differentiate the pack very much.

I'll admit that majority and SOV are somewhat similar, but they're by no means identical; to give two examples, Phil Willis has the best SOV but is only 8th in majority, and Michael Moore's SOV is twenty-four places worse than his majority. (In fact, I'm surprised the Scots and Welsh didn't complain about SOV because it disproportionately penalises them for the existence of the nationalists)

I like James's idea of a ballot for new categories, but we'd need a lot of answers for the numbers to be statistically useful, although I suppose we could use the rankings rather than the real numbers.

Finally, to answer Parsing's question, email

Mark said...

If you would like a pack LDYS still has about 20 left. Please contact Paul Pettinger at or on 020 7227 1387. They cost £6.95 + 50p postage.