2017 General Election Diary Day 50: Far from golden

And so we come to the end. Seven weeks of electioneering enter their last few hours, and now we just have to wait for the people to go and vote (excluding all those who’ve done it by post already, of course). Several forests worth of leaflets have been delivered, millions of doors have been knocked (and some of them have even been opened), and thousands of carefully micro-targeted Facebook ads have been blindly scrolled past as people look for amusing things involving cats.

And what have we learned at the end of it all? On Brexit, the subject that the election was ostensibly called to settle, we know that Theresa May has a plan, but she won’t tell us what it is, and that Jeremy Corbyn would rather talk about anything but it, despite the fact that leaving the Single Market would likely lead to the Government having very little money with which to implement any of his ambitious plans. We know that other parties exist, but that they don’t really count as the media’s just too glad to be pretending that everything’s back to two-party politics again and all issues can be presented as arbitrarily binary. I have a feeling that this is going to be an election that we look back on in years to come and wonder just what we were thinking in not actually discussing important issues in any depth and allowing soundbites to no longer just describe a policy in simplistic terms but completely occupy the space that any policy would have fitted in.

But then, the other big news of the day is that Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of being behind a shooting in the parliament in Tehran, which coupled with the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar this week could lead to our general election being an amusing footnote in books about the war. Assuming there are historians around to write the books, and we don’t have to wait a thousand years for someone to uncover ‘strong and stable’ from the ashes and decide, as all bemused archaeologists usually do, that it was probably of some sort of ritual significance.

I don’t mean to sound angry and cynical about the whole process, but I am, so that’s the way it comes out.

Anyway, let’s look forward to tomorrow, when the media will be telling us that campaigning is over, and thousands of political activists will be saying they wish it was. They’ll be up at the crack of dawn to deliver leaflets, or sit on polling stations taking numbers, or drive voters to the polls, or phone people to remind them to vote, or lots of other things that make up the election day ritual. And at the end of that fifteen hour day, fuelled by cold sausage rolls and the last jaffa cake in the packet, a lot of them will be trying to make themselves look presentable to go to the count and experience the triumph or disaster that’s to be found there. Which is to say that if you do encounter an activist in the streets tomorrow, be nice to them because they’re doing this as a volunteer and they’re possibly not enjoying it but soldiering on regardless, just in case that little bit of effort might make the difference. And those people at polling stations asking for your polling number aren’t trying to use dark arts to determine how you voted, but just to know that you have so you won’t be disturbed for the rest of the day. A lot of them aren’t regular activists or even party members, so be nice to them, please.

So it’s time for our final Election Leaflet Of The Day, and people have suddenly decided to start putting lots of leaflets on the site which makes it hard to pick just one, especially as some were for elections that happened a while. I was getting excited that the Tories had a long-dead American TV star standing for them in Norfolk, but it turns out that Lorne Green has already been elected as their PCC. Then there’s this one, which hides some quite nasty views behind a jokey tone, and features ‘Note 1’ which should really be top of the list of things you don’t put on an election leaflet. However, our final leaflet of the day will have to be this one from Doktor Haze in Brighton Kemptown, who promises that we will be ‘stronger in chaos’ and that ‘in a world of horrors your country needs a ringmaster’. Finally a positive vision we cana all rally round and support.

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow (if you haven’t already), and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the results on Twitter and here on Friday. See you on the other side.

2015 General Election Day 2: I am number 45

The first major judgment of the General Election campaign has been made, and although it was conducted with an obviously flawed system, I’m not going to challenge the result. Yes, according to the list here, I’m ranked 45th amongst journalists and commentators on Twitter based on some election-related algorithm, so I’m not going to challenge their findings for now.

More interesting on that site might be the listing by constituency of the various candidates with Twitter accounts, both to help find them but also to stoke pointless Twitter feuds between them to see who works hardest to get their ranking up. There’s five weeks to go to the election, we need to find some ways to amuse ourselves.

Talking of constituencies, it appears we’re going to have at least six candidates in Colchester this time around (we reached 9 in 2010) of whom four are the same as last time. Is there any other constituency where the Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative and UKIP candidates are all the same as last time? (There’s no five out of five because there’s a new Green candidate this time around)

But who’s the sixth? According to this, it’s Ken Scrimshaw of the Christian People’s Alliance, and beyond that your guess is as good as mine. The CPA is one of those fringe parties that has been around for a few years. According to Wikipedia, it emerged out of the old cross-party Movement for Christian Democray, and I recall their 2000 London Mayoral candidate Ram Gidoomal who actually finished ahead of the Greens in that election. Since then, though, the two parties have taken different courses and while the Greens have made it to Parliament, the CPA’s sole success was a couple of councillors in Newham in the last decade and nothing since.

Judging by their website, either God has forbidden all developments in web design since around the year 2000, or they’re not that big a party. The policies section doesn’t contain anything completely out of the ordinary at a first glance, and seems to be vaguely centre-rightish policies with a strong Christian flavour. It seems to be more a party for people with religious objections to same-sex marriage than one seeking to implement a British theocracy. Maybe I shall find out more if I get a leaflet from them.

Two days in, and only had one election leaflet delivered so far, but I don’t think the real flood will come until after Easter weekend. Royal Mail freepost deliveries should start coming in earnest after Easter when nominations have closed. If you can’t wait for them to be delivered, I would recommend Electionleaflets.org where people have been uploading leaflets from around the country, giving an idea of what’s going on in other places. I’m trying to upload the ones I get, and it’s simple to do if you want to join in and upload yours.

Not seen any election posters yet, with houses and gardens on any route I’ve travelled in the last couple of days remaining unadorned. Even the one Tory billboard that was in place last week has disappeared to be replaced by a beer advert which is probably symbolic of something. Not sure what it might be yet, though.

“Shut up and deliver leaflets”

"A letterbox without a leaflet in it is a wasted opportunity"
“A letterbox without a leaflet in it is a wasted opportunity”
One thing I’ve said repeatedly in recent years is that no one gets involved in politics because they really, really enjoy delivering leaflets. I thought that was a really obvious thing to say, but now I’ve had a comment that makes me question that. Apparently, I shouldn’t waste time writing posts on my blog about things that interest me and instead ‘just get out and deliver some leaflets’. (There’s also an appeal to ‘Mark’ to limit the topics that get written about, which makes me wonder if some people think Mark Pack is now the literal God of Liberal Democrat blogging, casting down thunderbolts at those who displease him)

This isn’t a new thing – Liberator magazine has spent years complaining at how the ideas of community politics have been turned into a leaflet delivery cult – and with an election coming one would inevitable expect to see the calls to stop thinking and start delivering increase in number. It’s not even a specifically Liberal Democrat thing – sure, that’s where my experience is, but it’s easy to spot the calls to campaign more and discuss less in other parties, even if they don’t have quite the same fetishistic devotion to shoving pieces of paper through letterboxes.

There are several problems with the ‘shut up and deliver leaflets’ message, not least the fact that it’s bloody rude, but for me they all come down to a misunderstanding of why some people get involved in politics. They rely on the belief that politics is essentially a game, and that it’s about ensuring that your team does the best it can, in the hopes that it can defeat the other teams. In this view, any of us mere bloggers are just average players in the game, not required to think about strategy or tactics, just required to get out there and follow orders. Deliver those leaflets, knock on those doors and do as the party’s high command tell you. Ours not to reason why, ours just to deliver then go back to HQ and ask for more, like a good Stakhanovite.

In that vision, a blog is just another campaign tool. While it’s probably not as good as delivering leaflets – for nothing is as good as delivering leaflets – it probably has some use as a cheerleading tool, telling everyone just how wonderful everything is, and how much more wonderful it would be if they’d just go out and deliver leaflets. That this and other blogs steadfastly refuse to take that approach means that we’re obviously in the wrong.

Unless you look at politics from a different perspective, and see ideas as important or just enjoy talking about general political issues, institutions, and history. What got me into politics was talking about things and considering ways that the world could be different, where the campaigning was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Sure, people like that might be a minority in modern politics (which tells a sad enough tale in itself) but telling us to ‘just go and deliver leaflets’ rather than have an interesting discussion or discover new ideas is not going to motivate. If anything, it’s going to demotivate us, because it tears down another bit of the facade and insists that everything is just about the game, where winning is the only thing of importance, not what you do with the prize after you’ve won.

So no, I won’t stop writing about things I find interesting in favour of delivering leaflets and if anything, I think one thing we need less of in politics generally is campaigning. The general election campaign has been running for several weeks now – whether we wanted it or not – and I’m pretty sure that time might have been better spent by dropping down the level of campaigning and actually trying to get more people to think and talk about issues instead of parroting soundbites and talking points at each other. But then, I would say that, and while I’ve been writing this post I could have been getting my fingers trapped in countless letterboxes.