GE2015 minus 19: market day’s approaching…

Posted: 18 April 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

Given that we seem to have been in campaign mode – officially or unofficially – since the turn of the year, there’s an arguably surprising amount of activity as we come up to the last couple of weeks before the election. The length of the unofficial campaign was of course guaranteed by the passing of the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act. I’ve more than a few problems with the act as it was passed, not limited to what happens when a vote of no confidence is passed and the length of a parliamentary term. The latter should have always been four years, not five. And the current ‘zombie’ parliament has proved that more than once. However, given what the Tory led coalition has done in year four and year five, it’s certainly arguable that a three year term would have been preferable. However, no, a four year term was teh obvious solution and only self-interest from the governing parties made it five years. But as I say, there’s been a lot of activity since the official campaign started at the end of March. Unfortunately, all the parties seem to mistake activity for achievement. Gone are the days of morning press conferences where at least the parties could tell the press what the ‘message’ of the day was going to be. Now, while party politicians are running around like… no, I wasn’t about to type “headless chickens”, why did you think that?

But, while party politicians are running around like they’ve constantly got to get to a meeting for which they’re late, voters would be forgiven for thinking they’re being engaged by the politicians less and less. The current set of ‘debates’ proved to us what the Americans have known for decades: while there’s nothing wrong with debates per se, it all comes down to the formats. The last time around in 2010, the debate formats couldn’t have been designed better, even with 76 rules that all had to agree to, including that the candidates would shake hands afterwards. Seriously. For all the complaints about the rules last time, the formats this time around couldn’t have been more calculated to turn the voters off from the debates if they’d tried. Next general election will either see a return to common sense for the debates, or theyt’ll be off the table for a generation. 

There’s an old saw about politcs: you don’t fatten the pig on market day. On other words, there’s no point bringing out policies that will appeal to the public so close to the election that there’s no time for them to appreciate them before they vote. And yet, parties insist on doing this, not recognising that the additional time granted to them needs to be filled with policy or the public will – quite rightly – make the quite reasonable assumption that the parties are hiding their true policies. I’ve no problem with parties using focus groups and suchlike to see how their policies go down with the public; while I think parties should start at the basic primnciples and then develop fact led policies from them, things like focus groups tell them how the policies can best be presented. Unfortunately, all the parties seem to have ignored presentation to the point where the policies themselves get lost because no-one’s quite sure what was said.

Which, as I wrote in another piece, leaves the field open for the straw men we’re seeing so much of.

But market day approaches and it worries me that – in large part because the manifestos were only published three weeks before the election – the public don’t actually know what they’re voting for. They know, possibly, what they’re voting against, but they can’t possibly fairly judge a manifesto running to almost a hundred pages, or more in some cases and pay attention to what the politicans are saying. Well, not if you’ve a job and a family and a social life, and you’d like some time for them as well.

Do me a favour though; vote for someone, not against someone. That way, at least you can look in the mirror on 8th May without wincing. Well, without wincing too much, anyway.

  1. The media doth protest too much.

    For years the media have presented political parties that have genuine debate and discuss their differences in public as parties that are split or in disarray. Parties that tell the electorate what they are going to do lose. For Labour the 1992 John Smith alternative budget provided this insight to Labour leaders.

    The rules are that the public say that all parties are the same and are not interesting. However parties that provide genuine choices quickly labelled as extreme right or left by the media.

    The public say in polls they would pay more taxes for better public services but vote for parties on the day that say they will reduce taxes.

    The public in marginals say they are showered with leaflets and they wished parties didn’t do this. They also say they never hear from the candidates.

    The thing about UKIP is that they sound fresh because they haven’t learned the rules;

    1. The media present disagreement as splits. Parties that appear split dont win.
    2. Those who dont vote dont matter. Political parties are there to maximise votes and not care about democracy.Parties that lose cant do anything even if they stick to their principles (learned by Labour and why Tony Blair was elected leader).
    3. The media is interested in viewing figures not informing the electorate.
    4. Telling the truth loses votes. Talk a lot but say little.
    5. During an interview seen by political nerds only a maximum of 30 seconds will ever make it onto the news that the majority see so repeat your key points as often as possible so the media can’t edit it out.
    6. Always ignore the interviewers questions and answer the points you want on the 30 segment per point 5.
    7. Avoid meeting the public on camera in an uncontrolled setting.The media are waiting to broadcast only the 10 second angry voter even if you have been greeted with cheers for an hour.
    8. No one reads the manifesto until they want to accuse you of going back on your promises.
    9. The public want complicated issues dealt with by easy answers. Try not to explain anything to the public as they will have stopped listening after 30 seconds.

    The election campaign is largely theatre on TV and radio and in the press. Political parties are not evil but have learned that if the public see them through the filter of a sensationalist media that doesn’t really have the ability to present democracy properly they must play the media game.

    Ken Livingstone said if voting changed anything they would make it illegal. He didn’t specify who the ‘they’ were. I guess I agree with the proviso that since its the only time anyone gives me any power I should probably use it no matter how hopeless.

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