Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Behavioural politics, day 21 of 30

End of week three of a campaign that has been very unpredictable. Yet despite the twists, I find myself frequently impatient for something else to happen. Am I spoiled by life at the speed of twitter? "Internet speed" doesn't quite describe it any more - I realise with amazement that I'm not far from my twentieth year on the Internet, and life certainly didn't feel like it was unfolding at this pace when I started.

I built a new website from scratch on Thursday, launched it on Sunday and it reached 7,000 visits on Tuesday. Yet I'm already impatient that it only had 3,000 on Wednesday and trying to work out how to promote it further tomorrow. Tonight I've been interviewed on the BBC and tomorrow I'm meeting a major industry figure to discuss the rise of behavioural economics. So why do I need extra political news to keep me even busier? Well, today we've definitely had some of that. However, I'm still a couple of days behind on these reports, so here is Monday's update.

It was all about game theory on Monday, and how players can signal, synchronise their strategies and find a local equilibrium.

The Conservatives have a little media win: they are expanding their list of targets to include more Labour seats - which they claim are now winnable due to the Lib Dems' increased vote share. This displays breathtaking cheek, given that the Lib Dems do far more harm to the Tories than to Labour. But they have persuaded respectable media outlets to report this with a straight face.

The dynamics of this finely-balanced contest are now such that creating an expectation that you can win is a necessary precondition to achieving a win. So the Tories have probably won themselves some tactical (anti-Labour) votes with this manoeuvre. They must do all they can to talk down the enthusiasm of the Lib Dem insurgents and restore their position as leading agents of change. It may be too late, but they're trying the right things.

In a related tactic, Labour and the Lib Dems are both talking about coalitions. The Lib Dems claiming they'd first talk to David Cameron if Labour came third in the vote - which makes sense, as it lets them go on to strike a deal with Labour when Cameron refuses a radical electoral reform bill. And Labour - at least Alan Johnson - is talking about being open to a coalition too. Having prepared the ground, both parties can claim to have a mandate to form a joint government if the situation arises.

There's a drop of policy, as Labour launch their "health manifesto". But I'll buy lunch for the first person to find a national newspaper writing about that after tomorrow. No matter how much Labour wants to bring the focus back onto policy, everyone has more interesting preoccupations. And that was before Wednesday's bombshell...but I'm getting ahead of myself there.

Ratings: Conservative 8/10, Liberal Democrat 6/10, Labour 5/10.

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