» campaigns ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Via Jonathan Calder, the words of a Telegraph ‘political commentator’:

For very good reasons, Britain’s political parties do not campaign on election day.

This will likely confuse all of you reading this who are involved in politics, though I’m sure we’ll all be glad to know that we get polling day off after those long campaigns. All that getting up at 5am to deliver the first leaflet of the day, followed by hours of knocking on doors and more delivery must just have been a recurring bad dream I had every May.

Or it may just be that we don’t understand what campaigning is. Iain Martin, the journalist who wrote those words, got into a conversation with Lib Dem activist Chris Lovell last night, appears to think campaigning consists of just rallies and speeches and anything else is just “people with clipboards driving voters to polling stations”.

But then, is that all most journalists see of political campaigns? Most journalists writing about politics have never had any direct experience of it or involvement with it, and their job consists of going where the parties tell them to go to and working out which spin doctor’s stories they’re going to pay the most attention to when they write their stories. For them, political campaigns are a mix of media stunts, rallies and Important Speeches by Important People where the only role of party members and activists is to make up a useful backdrop and make sure they hold the placards the right way up. As none of this happens on polling day and journalists don’t have any invites to anything until the counting starts, it’s easy to make the assumption that there’s no campaigning going on.

Whereas most activists will tell you that polling day is the most important and busiest of the campaigning. The reason everyone looks hollow-eyed at the count is because they’ve been up since the early hours of the morning (assuming they got any sleep at all) and subsisting on whatever food they can grab. The big campaign events may not be happening – because they won’t get any coverage in the media – but all the other parts of campaigning are going at full tilt.

For a journalist – and specifically one credited as a political commentator – to claim that there’s no campaigning on polling day reveals just how shallow most coverage of politics is. Campaigns are like icebergs – there’s a very visible part on the surface, but a whole lot more happening beneath that. Journalists used to know this, but now they’re so dazzled by the bit on the surface, they imagine there’s nothing going on underneath.

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Quite a few from the US this time, but it’s been a busy week there.

Doing politics in plain sight – Written from a Labour perspective, but I think relevant to everyone. “We all talk about wanting politicians with some experience of life outside Westminster. That shouldn’t be simply the first act of your life before giving oneself over to politics completely. All politicians should have the option of having a normal life outside of politics, and we need to look at how we change the way we do business to make that happen. If we don’t we will only be represented by – and representative of – the obsessed. Making politics a more attracticve option will also help to reduce the barrier between those who involved and those they represent. At the moment, few people can see why anyone would want to put themselves through it, other than for financial gain.”
When quants tell stories – A look at how the Obama campaign got its message out, and how much it tailored the different messages different groups received.
Why Americans actually voted for a Democratic House – Another triumph for First Past The Post in the US. Democrats get more votes; Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives by a large majority. (via)
Inside Team Romney’s whale of an IT meltdown – Another look behind the scenes of the US election, this time on how Romney’s much vaunted wonderful IT system for getting out the vote failed.
Attention henchmen! Voting machines and other flawed conspiracies – From before the election, but an interesting look at the problems of voting machines by David Brin

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