Russell Brand is not a cult. And there’s no typo in that previous sentence.
However, some of the reaction to his recommendation that people (mostly) vote Labour on Thursday appears to be a assuming that he is, or at least a cult leader. ‘Young people’ supposedly follow Brand’s every utterance and do exactly as he commands them, so by this logic none of them will be registered to vote and his endorsement means nothing. Or they’re registered to vote, and that proves his endorsement means nothing. (Some people are claiming that Brand told people not to register to vote which I don’t recall, so if anyone has evidence of that, I’d be grateful)
As we can see, there’s actually been a large number of people registering to vote during the campaign, and they appear to be mostly younger voters, precisely the type of people who are more likely to pay attention to Russell Brand (whose interview with Ed Miliband is now getting close to 2m views, by the way). It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that those people may well have heard Brand advocating not voting last year and thought ‘yesh, I’m not going to vote!’ and then put that consideration to the back of their mind. Then, when the election rolled around and there was lots of publicity about how important it was to register to vote, and social media was full of people saying ‘hey, it’s really easy to just click here and register’ those very same people would have thought ‘yes, I’ll register to vote’. Even if we’re assuming that these people are strongly influenced by Brand, he wasn’t doing anything at the time that would have led people to reject the ‘register to vote’ messages. Thus, it’s entirely possible for people to be fans of Russell Brand and also for them to be registered to vote and receptive to his message to vote Labour.
The point is that people get their information from a number of sources, which an election campaign ought to make clear. Most people don’t have strong opinions on most political subjects, and they’re very strongly influenced by what they’ve seen or heard and accepted most recently and for most people who hear it, Brand’s endorsement of Labour will be just one of many they hear between now and Thursday. Yes, there may be a small number of people who didn’t register to vote because of what he said and are now desperate to vote Labour, but unless his persuasive powers are akin to those of a cult leader, I doubt they’ll be more than a very few. (And for more on the whole issue of how people come to make political decisions see this post and read the books I talk about there)
A couple of things that may be of interest to you: the BBC look at how political party colours have developed over the years, and some of the traditional colours still in use; and the New Statesman look at the times when interesting things might occur on election night, though the PA’s result timings are quite often subject to wild variation on the night. One thing I remember from 1992 was that there were several seats thought to be in a race for the first result, and correspondents had been dispatched to all of them in anticipation of getting the first result. Unfortunately, no one had predicted that Sunderland was going to claim that title, and so there were no cameras there to pick up the declaration, which left everyone feeling a little embarrassed, but since then no one has come close to Sunderland’s speed of counting. Unfortunately, I don’t think now that any local authority would be able to build a Sunderland-rivalling counting operation effectively in secret to pull of that sort of shock again.
Some of the research from the Qualitative Election Study of Britain that I worked on last week is now being published, if you’re curious about their findings. The good thing about qualitative research is that you can publish snapshots and points of interest from it without having to wait until the end of the whole project and then run a big statistical analysis on anything. There may be more parts to come, and there are also some post-election focus groups taking place as part of it to find out more about the process of how people decided to vote and what they think of what’s happened since then.
OK, so we’re now in the single-candidate parties in our trawl through the list, and today I’ve discovered the Children Of The Atom party and such a marvelously X-Men-esque title was guaranteed to get my attention, especially when I discovered their sole candidate was standing in that hotbed of radioactive futurism, Shrewsbury. Their website covers a lot of areas and resists being boiled down to a few pithy phrases, though I’ll try. Their name comes from being atomists who “place value on the individual above all else”, but that comes a way down the page after a lot of stuff about positive money creation, debt and other related concepts. However, I would expect to find out more about them soon as “We will shortly recruit a nationwide team comprised of the most extraordinary, gifted and highly intelligent people in the UK, to oversee a radical and visionary ground-up reconstruction of all social, economic and government systems.” Which should be interesting to watch.
Finally for today, our dive into the pile of Election Leaflets finds us Ken Martin, an independent candidate in Maldon who wants to restrict all laws to no more than two sides of A4. He appears to have taken this approach to his own leaflet, deciding he has to give the voters his views on everything in a similarly small space of paper. There’s a lot of ideas and information in there, regularly marred by One of my Least Favourite tactics of the Amateur political screed writer of putting Random Capitals on words with no Rhyme or reason. Besides, doesn’t he realise that if you want to write in depth about your obscure political you should get a blog?
To justify the headline of this post, here’s some REM to play you out: