Friday, May 19, 2017

Searching for Votes

Apparently people are asking Google 'Who should I vote for?'  Clearly, things are worse than I feared if Britain's voters are so confused/thick, that they think they can get any kind of coherent guidance from a notoriously bad search algorithm run by a tax dodging multinational corporation.  Leaving aside, for one moment, the frightening fact that there are, apparently, people among us who are entitled to vote, yet incapable of making a decision how to cast this vote themselves, the fact is that Google's search results these days won't help them as they rarely, if ever, actually return results on the first page which are actually relevant to the user's query.  Below half a page of adverts about voting machines and second hand ballot boxes, they'll probably get several links to Amazon, selling books with the word 'vote' in the title, a You Tube video of someone doing something 'whacky' outside a polling station and a couple of eBay auctions of old political manifestos and rosettes.  That's if they are lucky.  There's also a fair chance they'll get a page of results full of links to the websites of various extreme right wing groups who have been gaming the search results.

But why would any prospective voter be so desperate/stupid as to delegate their decision making to a search engine on such an important issue?  The excuse which is always given is that 'there's no difference between the parties'.  Which, whilst never actually true, is a particularly spurious argument when it comes to the current general election.  With the publication of the party manifestos, there is clear water between Labour and Tories.  Although the Labour manifesto has been lazily characterised by the right wing press as being 'back to the seventies' because of its commitment to restoring public ownership of various privatised assets, I have to say that there is a lot of stuff in it that I like.  The problem, I fear, is the presentation: like it or not, 'Nationalisation' has become a dirty word in politics today and, thanks to decades of right-wing propaganda, now conjures up images of monolithic and inefficient state owned institutions.  And, like it or not, in the modern world, you have to be able to 'sell' policies to the electorate.  Most won't buy 'nationalisation', but they might well buy 'public ownership', especially if the latter can be defined in different terms than the former.  Following a popular continental model, where things like railways are reconstituted as commercial ventures in which the government holds 51% of the shares, for instance.  This ensures that the state retains control, ensuring the venture is run in the public interest and can, if necessary, use public funds to finance infrastructure projects, or subsidise loss making lines, but the company would also still be able to seek private investment.

Unfortunately, under Corbyn's leadership, a much needed debate on issues such as how to define public ownership, simply hasn't occurred. which brings us back to the main problem with Labour's manifesto: in the public consciousness, it is inextricably linked with Corbyn.  The fact is that elections aren't won or lost on how left or right wing a manifesto is perceived to be - it is factors such as trust and credibility which ultimately sway voters.  And, like it or not, Corbyn simply isn't trusted or seen as a credible Prime Minister by large swathes of the electorate.  My great fear is that if Labour lose badly, then Corbyn will inevitably (and rightly) be blamed and the policies in the manifesto most closely identified with him will also be branded vote losers and abandoned for another generation.  Which would be a pity as a lot of those policies are, fundamentally, good policies which try to reconnect Labour with its core vote.  They just need to be refined and recast in a 'modern' idiom, so that they can more easily be 'sold' to the wider electorate.  So, there you go - we had my political ranting on a Friday rather than a Monday this week.  Makes a change, doesn't it?.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home