Saturday, March 15, 2008

Voting against, not for.

For anyone interested in the way that the Internet is changing the way that political campaigning is done, the Stop Boris site is worth a look.

Here's the FAQ, and here are the downloadable posters. Some of them are quite good. And my Labour-voting soul hopes that the site will succeed in it's mission.

Some of London's voters (*ahem!*) will vote for the candidate of their choice with serious misgivings. But this illustrates an important difference between the huge majority of us - those who vote but don't stand for election ourselves - and those who do.

We can justify picking the 'least worst' candidate. Because of the growing cynicism in public life, we can expect more campaigns to look like this. Political parties, well-funded individual candidates, and even candidates with backing from a corner of the press no longer can necessarily regard their campaigning structures as assets. Often, the best way to destroy a candidate in the public mind is to promote them, because we are now supremely distrustful of promoters.

In 1997, in east London, we had to forbid some Labour campaigners from driving around with loudspeakers on top of their cars 'getting the vote out'. We knew that a lot of the Tory core vote was going to stay at home sulking. Any evidence of triumphalism would have poked them out and into the polling station.

There are no trust issues with the Stop Boris campaign. It can make anti-Boris points from both the left and the right. The site goes to great lengths to point out that it isn't a Ken-proxy. I'm sure most visitors suspect that it is just a well-done deniable Ken-proxy, whatever the site claims. It's Douglas Rushkoff's media-virus world of peer marketing.

So most voters will end up voting for the candidate we fear the least. Public debate is good at working out who we don't want to run the country. But it's crap at working out how to run the country. This is a point that I believe that anyone with a brain would have to agree with. But it is not a point that would be publicly affirmed by many politicians or paid commentators.

And as long as the broad tenor of public discourse continues with the pretence that we should all be given more of a say in policymaking, democracy will continue to decline as it has done in recent years.

1 comment:

fake consultant said...

as a us reader, i have to say the idea that you could ban any campaign speech is something we would find quite surprising.

while we do not have 100% freedom and immunity for political speech (you can still be legally liable for libel and slander), we do virtually nothing to restrain such speech, as it is considered the heart of the first amendment to the us constitution.