Saturday, April 19, 2008

Election publicity

Isn't there something built into the premise of democracy which creates a responsibility for publicity around elections?

Working in London I have been painfully aware of the London Mayoral Election for months. I have no vote this time around, but am confident that when they do go to the polls, Londoners will have no cause to lament the lack of information on individual candidates or the parties for which they stand.

But a week ago I received my official postal poll card - seems we have local elections on May 1st too! I knew absolutely nothing about this (OK, so I have no TV aerial at the moment, but dont want much telly anyway). So this morning I got the postal voting slip through and now have to make my choice.

Assuming the voting slip lists the correct candidates this time around, it is now my job to research the candidates and make my choice. Here is what I have discovered:

Green Party
Looking at the voting slip, this man is my neighbour. Googling him brings up nothing at all, but the front page of the Green's website has a good size box pointing to local election info, and that page makes it very clear what they are all about. Big claps to the Greens for information provision. I have never voted them before, but this definitely keeps them in the running this time around.

Good gawd, what is North Herts coming to. Rather reluctant to even venture to their site at risk of encouraging them over their web traffic numbers. Very little indeed on this dude - not even a photo on the local paper's website. The BNP site looks like the kind of site a local carpet sales man would have.... far too much info to find what I need. I look closer... To be fair their policies are quite evident. Seems they want everyone to go away. Not my bag baby. I move on...

Liberal Democrats
Again, nothing comes up when googling the candidate (are local election candidates the only people left in the world who have no Google trail? I check by Googling my dad - yep, even he exists in GoogleWorld). Next stop the Lib Dem site... Now, I used to be a Lib Dem voter back in my idealistic student days. I loved Charles K so I want to be able to tell you all that the site was great - full of useful local election info and a full bio of the candidate. But sadly not. I look for a good couple of minutes but cannot even find the words "local election". If they can't be bothered then neither can I.

Judging by his name he may be my old English teachers hubby. But he may not. Now I should say up front that this candidate's people have called me twice. The first I lied to ("I am emigrating and won't be here on May 1st"), the second I flatly told I would never vote Labour. Still - good efforts from them. So, to Google. Reckoning he probably wasn't the grocer's assistant in the 1881 census (judging not least by his rather nice postcode!) I find lots of smiling pictures of him but not a lot of info. The Labour site - big claps. Clicking a button called "why vote labour on May 1st" takes you do a full local manifesto. I don't linger though - even the best website in the world wouldn't make me vote for these guys.

Can't find anything on the man, and bizarrely nothing at all on the Tory site. Rather surprised and disappointed. Nice big piccy of Boris but doesn't reassure me that the Tories know of a world beyond London. Their overarching policies (something about blue and green) are there, but nothing tailored to the local elections. I do like their front page links to social networks though. All very modern. One click away and I can add them on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo (are Bebo users old enough to vote?). Now I do actually know the man who advised them on their social network approach - and they seem to have sensibly followed his advice. Well done... now just need to tell me about the local elections!

Nothing on the candidate (this is getting silly!). I can see their manifesto, but think they need to work harder to explain why their defence policy and anti-EU policy is in any way relevant to local elections.

So what have we learnt?
- If someone runs in their party's name then the party should have a full biography of the candidate on the website (just covering MPs isn't enough)
- Acknowledge the local elections specifically and tailor your information to work on a local level
- If you are a candidate - get a website to tell me what you plan to do. If you have tried to knock on my door to tell me a) you will have reached few people and b) you will persistently miss me because I am never in.

Well I think my mind is made up. Off to pop my cross in the box.

Happy voting!


Dom said...

I didn't know you were politicised Ms Wearmouth...

It's shocking that major political parties can't get their act together when it comes to engaging with the public over the net. It's not even new stuff, it's simple online provisioning, which they should have sorted out back in the 90s.

Emily Wearmouth said...

Something about the word Politicised makes it sound like something you are subjected to, rather than actively engaged with... but I will let that slide.

I am not political but I am idealogical.

Plus as a woman I feel it is my duty to vote, having had women sacrifice their lives to give me the chance. I also could never look someone in the eye from an undemocractic state if I didn't...

Dom said...

You could always spoil your vote, I think even Ms Pankhurst would approve. She's the sole reason I lay a bet on the Grand National, not to select a winner but to gamble on whether a Fathers 4 Justice protester - besuited as an action hero - will be trampled under hoof.

Emily Wearmouth said...

I think she would only approve of spoiling the vote if I had spent a few months chained to the Downing Street railings campaigning for everyone else to do likewise.

Otherwise the whole label of "spoilt" just makes me think people are too thick to fill in the form, rather than protesting.

She would definitely approve of the betting though ;-)

Melissa said...

thought you may be interested in seeing one of the people standing in Letchworth-wilbury.

altogether now... "lets transform life without lawery". ????????????????

oh well, at least he is trying

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