This election is supposed to be exciting because we have seen the leaders on TV having a carefully staged discussion. A discussion that allowed some pretty inane questions to be asked and answered without any further questioning from the person asking the question or others in the audience. It says a lot about the state of British politics that such a rigid and unrevealing ‘debate’ has caused such a stir amongst the voting and non-voting public.
Whether it has actually changed anything remains to be seen in terms of votes cast on May the 6th, but I imagine for many of us we are more interested in meeting our local candidates, and here for me lies the problem: so far in this election I have not met any of my local candidates.
This isn’t to say they haven’t been visible locally or even called on my house whilst I am out, it is merely to say I haven’t heard of anything happening locally and I haven’t answered my door to a single candidate. I have received a Plaid Cymru leaflet from Danny Clark, a Liberal Democrat leaflet from Jackie Radford and a Conservative leaflet from Emma Moore (I think I got something from Labour but have misplaced it). All of it pretty uninspiring and in Emma Moore’s case, a disgraceful mish-mash of lies, implied racism and contradictory drivel.
So, how am I or any other voter supposed to choose between candidates based on one leaflet? Perhaps the problem is that many politicians feel just as apathetic about politics as the general public. If they know that an area normally votes Labour, irrespective of whether Labour has abandoned its roots by making the rich richer as well as getting involved in illegal wars and torture, then they send out a leaflet to simply go through the motions, they do not expect any vast change in voting patterns, so they do not bother really trying to win votes.
However, all of the candidates have put contact information on their leaflets and this includes a website. So I visit them to see what else I can find out.
The Liberal Democrat Candidate website is pretty uninspiring on a local level, just six mainly short paragraphs of information about Jackie and an invitation to click on the Liberal Democrats website. No details of what Jackie is up to, whether I can see her or whether she’ll be in my area in the run up to the election. I find out a bit more about what Jackie has done in her career, but I don’t find out anything more about the kind of person Jackie is.
The Conservative Candidate website is a more personal affair, with more details and a few photos of Emma and South Wales. However, the political priorities are the same as on the leaflet so I’m still not finding out a great deal more. She does have a Facebook page, and this does get updated quite regularly with comments on a range of matters. It is these opinion pieces that give me a better idea of what kind of views she has – this is the kind of stuff as a voter I’m looking for.
The Plaid Cymru Candidate website is not at all personal and you have to dig around to find the one paragraph dedicated to Danny, and no contact details are given (nor are they on the leaflet) this is a huge minus for this candidate. If I cannot easily contact you when you want my vote, what chance I have got if you actually get in?
I guess my point is, on a local level I am still as much in the dark as I have been during previous elections. I might have seen the three party leaders on TV, but on a local level I know nothing more about the actual person I would be voting for to represent my area.
After my previous post on Emma Moore’s leaflet campaign I emailed Emma to offer her a right to reply, to which she has not responded. I also emailed both the Liberal Democrats and Labour. The Liberal Democrats responded quickly that they would be forwarding the email on to the relevant team, but I have heard nothing since. Labour have yet to issue any kind of response. I’m pretty disappointed with this, and it seems to dent any spirit of public activism.
I spent a couple of hours of my time pulling apart some lies being delivered to thousands of houses by the Conservative candidate and I don’t have a single proper response from the three main parties on this matter. As a user of social media perhaps my expectations are too high. I kind of expect my candidate to have a blog, a Twitter page, a decent website and I expect them to check their emails regularly. I kind of expect to get a real feel for the candidate through the open sharing of their views on a range of matters. Apart from Emma’s Facebook page I don’t get any of this from the candidates. I am no wiser than before.
It is clear politics is changing and social media will play a huge part in this – I genuinely believe we will start to learn an awful lot more about local candidates in the next few years as we expect them to share more of themselves with voters. However, at the moment most of us will have to make do with staged TV debates in a studio far, far away.