One of the main criticisms levelled at politicians has been that they are ‘out of touch’. The traditional parties have certainly borne that out in their campaigning and communication for this year’s general election.
Their bubbles have drifted so far from reality that they don’t seem to know how to connect with and appeal to people any more. It’s just repeating their dodgy mythology and stories of gloom. If they keep playing the tunes of decades past, people will be obliged to give them their votes.
There’s nothing in there of inspiration, vision or hope. Maybe it’s just me being middle class, intellectual, idealistic, etc. But I think people would really like to hear those things. I think people would like to hear a story of how we can support each other, address the problems facing us humanely and intelligently, open up and move forward into new opportunities, challenges and achievements. Everything I know about stories tells me that’s what engages people.
But the show opened with clowns who were sad.
Do you remember how the Conservatives kicked off the campaigning in January with the poster of the desolate road? No sign of human life and activity; just tarmac stretching off to an unseen destination. ‘Follow the path we tell you. All there is for you is obedience,’ was the message. And they got a lot of flak because the road in the image turned out to be in Germany. (Image from linked Telegraph article.)
Or there was the Labour leaflet that came through my door. Front page, top heading item: “Balance the books.” That was their gambit to get the reader enthused and keen to read the rest of what they had to say. With all the things the government has done in the last five years that they could kick against with some fire, they resorted to blinding us with accountancy.
Fortunately for balance, this morning a Facebook friend shared this Liberal Democrat video. The first 80% is about driving around aimlessly while people drone on in the background. They’re stuck on the ‘neither left nor right’ mantra, positioning the party in a space between Con and Lab that most people can’t see any more. Defining themselves by what they’re not instead of standing for something makes them look like nothing.
Too much of what they’re all putting out is about abstract economic game-playing. Too little is about people’s lives and wellbeing.
Oh, and have you noticed how ‘chaos’ has become a major campaign issue for this election? Apparently we’re all at terrible risk from it. It’s an ill-formed appeal to people’s desire for a world they don’t have to think about too much.
The TV debates
I’ve only watched clips from these, but I have been watching responses, especially on Twitter. The initial leaders’ debate gave the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon a ton of fans due to presenting alternative ideas and being a charismatic speaker.
Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru and Natalie Bennett from the Greens went over well too. (Bennett gets targeted by people hunting for any weakness of the Greens because speaking isn’t her strongest point, and obviously putting on a good show is the only mark of a good leader…)
It’s an interesting quirk of fate that the old guard were all men and the new arrivals all women. I’m sure there were many women whose voting intentions were influenced by seeing them there talking sense and being civilised with each other.
Certainly, as several commentators have said, just being there was significant in legitimising the smaller parties and giving them mindshare. In the case of the Greens, at least, that happened because of a lot of campaigning by a lot of people (which was then followed by a lot of chaos, caused largely by Cameron).
That Green boyband video
The Greens shook things up a few days ago with the ‘Change the Tune’ election video showing impersonators of the trad party leaders as a boyband singing the same song.
The central singing segment was a bit cringe-inducing for me as an introvert who doesn’t watch TV talent shows. A lot of commenters criticised it for that surface level.
I quickly realised that it wasn’t aimed at people like me (or them), and that actually it did a lot of clever and important things.
It made the point that the trad parties do indeed have pretty much the same mindset. It had the narrator, representing the Greens, symbolically walking away from the stage where they were. Oh, and being female, and black – perhaps a bit obvious, but making a point about diversity while coming across as the sort of smart, level-headed person anyone might know.
And it made the Greens the first to claim the territory of being engaging and fun. Even if the trad parties change direction radically, any positivity they manage to wring out will look like a response to the Greens.
This is not aimed at people who obsess over policy details and discuss them online. It’s aimed at people who think all politicians are the same and have nothing to offer them, and are just waiting for the next lot to arrive and do things to them.
This is about talking to the wider public with the kind of imagery that might catch their attention, and raising the possibility of difference – when the trad parties are all about the necessity of things being the same.
Be message aware
The political parties want your vote, and they’re trying to push messages at you so that you’ll give it.
Some of those messages are overt, and some are hidden inside other things. Be aware of what they want you to take on board. For instance, all the talk about ‘hardworking families’ is reinforcing an old idea of the virtue of toil, discouraging people from looking up and asking questions.
Think about what you really want, not what they say you should want. Look into what they will do, which may be different from what they say they will do.
(I’ll be doing a later post about what I say you should do!)
I think this election is particularly important, because of the chances for opening up British politics, and because of the time we’re living in, with critical choices between the upward and downward paths.
So please, use your voice for whatever help it can give us to inch upward.