spiked-geist: Day 25

Conservatives implode; Election dotbomb; Tories online; Big Brother; On Labour's campaign trail; Did things get better?

Various Authors

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Things can only get…more interesting

‘Vote conservative’, instructs The Economist’s front cover, above a picture of a laughing Tony Blair wearing Margaret Thatcher’s hair. Just as most of the country has turned its back on the ‘natural party of government’, business is closing its doors to the ‘party of business’. With six days to go, the Conservative Party’s total collapse is imminent.

As the one sign of movement within this election campaign, the Tory implosion has gained the lion’s share of media coverage over the past few days. The Guardian’s Hugo Young today argues that the UK media has given the Tories’ election chances too much credence and their ideas too much publicity; that ‘forests of trees have died to spread the word about a programme that will never happen’. There’s a certain Blairite arrogance to all this – whatever you may say about the Tories, they are certainly worth talking about.

For the generation coming of age in this election, the Conservative Party looks like a joke rump party of the past. In the new world under New Labour, it might be easy to forget that the Tories were in government, either alone or in coalition, for two-thirds of the twentieth century; and that, by comparison, all other political parties were minor players. In the space of less than a decade, all that has gone – a process speeded up dramatically by this general election.

The Tories may have lost their stronghold over British politics – but as Mick Hume explained last week, New Labour cannot just slip into their shoes (1). What we have seen is a Tory implosion, not a consolidation of New Labour’s support. As Blair’s party struggles to consolidate its political authority, and is no longer able to rely on the slogan ‘don’t go back’, all the tensions within New Labour will come out. It will be a period of political flux, in which the need for a critical discussion is greater than ever.

So one thing is for sure. This might have been the most boring election campaign ever – but after it is over, things can only get more interesting. JB

(1) Read this: Blair wins – so why is New Labour so nervous?, by Mick Hume

Election dotbomb

ruup4it? No, it’s not a steamy song by Prince – it’s New Labour’s online initiative to engage young people in politics. But while Labour has trumpeted its use of the internet during the election campaign, it seems not many internet users are up 4 it.

Whatever Happened to the E-lection?, published by the Industrial Society, found that 84 percent of UK internet users avoid election-related websites. Only two percent of users are certain to go online to find out about parties and policies.

Given the report’s estimate that over a million pounds of election funds were spent on online campaigning, that’s a pretty low return on investment. And the report found that internet users are even less likely to vote than the UK population as a whole – with only 51 percent of net users intending to cast their ballots on 7 June.

Of course, the internet has its uses. All this report proves is that you can’t solve political problems by technical means. If people aren’t fired up about the election, the parties should look at their politics and policies, instead of trying to tempt us into the polling booth with some snazzy websites and online games. SS

Read on:

Politics is important, voting isn’t, by Mick Hume

Tories: online and unelectable

With their usual impeccable timing, the Tories have just launched their online election initiative. If they had waited a day longer, they could have read the Industrial Society’s report which tells them not to bother (see above).

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram described the initiative as ‘the latest and most exciting development of conservatives.com, taking web election campaigning to a whole new level of technology and interactivity’.

And he demonstrated this by fiddling with a computer whose display was projected on four great screens behind him. Impressive – except that the latest initiative turned out to be an online form that you fill in, in return for bits of the Tory manifesto that correspond with your interests.

Ancram told me that this does a better job than New Labour of giving people what they are interested in. Yes, Michael, but who’s interested in the Tory manifesto? SS

Big Brother and the election

Further to yesterday’s spiked-geist on whether Channel 4 will tell the Big Brother contestants who wins the general election on 7 June, a decision has finally been made. ‘Ab-so-lute-ly not’, says a Big Brother press officer. BON

On Labour’s campaign trail

At the Labour Party press conference this morning, Labour’s paymaster-general Dawn Primarolo said:

‘Campaigning in constituencies in the South West as I have done, the message is loud and clear: people believe we have done a lot, but they also believe there is a lot more to do. They want us to continue what we have started. And they also know there is a lot to lose with the Tories.’

Funny, I’m sure I have heard those words somewhere before….

And Tony Blair said:

‘Health is not just a central issue in this last week of the campaign. If we are elected, it will be the driving mission of a Labour second term.’ JA

Read this:

Keep politics out of healthcare, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick

Did things get better?

Read Mick Hume in the New Statesman on whether things got better under New Labour:

‘Polly Toynbee’s Did Things Get Better? concludes that the answer is “Yes”, but that “they could get a lot better still” if the government was bold enough to do more, to be more “progressive” by intervening forcefully in everything from football to the BBC. Some of us see an alternative progressive criticism: that the government has already done far too much. In an age of something-must-be-done politics, it seems that Whitehall must have a policy on everything, a scheme, special committee, zone or tsar to solve all of our problems. The result is an intrusive and authoritarian regime.’

Read on:

Polly-Wally Doodle, by Mick Hume, New Statesman

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