Saturday, April 16, 2005

Going postal

Perhaps when John Hemming next tries to blame Labour for all the faults in the electoral system, he should remember that, like the Tories and the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats tried to block toughened rules about allowing postal vote applications to go through party-controlled mailing centres. That also seems to have slipped Michael Howard's mind.

The obvious reason for this process is to allow the parties time to capture the data. The chances are that if you have used a Tory or Labour application form to register for a postal vote, you are likely to be a supporter of that party, so can expect a blizzard of reminders to cast your vote in the right way.

BrandRepublic takes a look at the media spend of the major parties and how they are targetting the key swing voters by direct marketing through telephone and mailing. It shows a shift to direct mail by Labour and the Tories, with a similar shift likely on telephone canvassing as well, even though the figures don't show this up. Labour tripled their spend on direct mail, compared to 2001, while the Tories have always spent more on this, but still doubled their expenditure to over £500,000 at the start of this year, up from £270,000 in 2001. As the other two pull back from press advertising, the Liberal Democrats have invested massively in this and have increased their spend tenfold. BrandRepublic also has a short article about the nascent electronic political fight, as well.

I don't like this - but then I am a traditionalist. It has been reported that as few as 800,000 voters in marginal seats will decide the election. This is probably entirely true, but will lead to the parties concentrating their campaigning on those few voters and ignoring the rest of the country, who will only be spoken to through the twisted prism of the media. Partly, this is an understandable resource issue - the parties don't have the footsoldiers to knock on doors any more. As a nation, we are trending away from party involvement and preferring to attach ourselves to issues.

Once again, the politician is moved further away from the electorate and the disconnect worsens. The long term prospects aren't good for turn-out and that's not good for democracy.

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