Thursday, 29 April 2010

Behavioural politics, day 22 of 30

A bit of personal news first: CountMyVote was mentioned on Rory Cellan-Jones' blog and over 7,000 people arrived via that or the twitter links that followed it - an excellent combination of PR and viral marketing. Some very striking results emerged - the Lib Dems are way out in the lead on 62%, with Tories and Labour both in the mid-teens. This of course reflects a very specific demographic on twitter, but more importantly the emergence of a nascent movement, Obama-style.

Other campaign news today:

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has accused all three parties of hiding from voters the extent of public spending cuts required after the election. I would dispute their economics a little, but the behavioural point is that it creates an opportunity for one party to get some social proof by changing course and publishing a list of cuts which might win IFS approval. The IFS, incidentally, is universally described as a "respected" think tank whenever it's quoted on TV or radio - by which they mean "not in the pocket of any party". It's a nice reputation to have, but it's almost comical how consistent that adjective is.

Oddly, given that the Tories have run their campaign better overall, this issue has been a Labour victory. Labour has successfully intimidated the Tories into pretending that they won't cut anything - when in fact, I suspect the electorate would quite like to hear about some cuts. There are very few people who don't have a gut feeling that the government is wasting a ton of money - even if they couldn't identify a single penny of it. A party which promised a 5% cut across the board would win a lot of economic credibility, closing most of the structural fiscal gap in a single stroke. And by spreading the pain evenly across all government spending, it would immunise itself from a lot of negative reactions.

However, given that none of the parties are likely to take me up on this, let's look at what they have done.

David Cameron is trying yet again to get the Big Society - or is it Broken Society? - message out. Not much hope of that.

Gordon Brown claims that children's services will be cut by the Lib Dems and Tories. Negative campaigning does work but nobody's really listening.

Nick Clegg did something clever. He said something that could have come straight from Cameron's Big Society handbook, but without obscuring it with the name "Big Society". He offered to give nurses more power under a Lib Dem government. Who could object to that? Nurses, after all! We all love them. More to the point (of media coverage), he got a standing ovation from the Royal College of Nursing, and that was what got reported.

Events outside of party control are much more interesting, and today there was quite a haul:

  • Peppa Pig (no, neither had I) withdrew from a Labour campaign event to avoid being politicised. Mustn't bias those 3-year-old voters, after all they might be voting in the next election but three.
  • An Eastenders actress endorsed David Cameron - obviously not too worried about influencing the 19-year-olds who watch that.
  • Cancelling that out, a Tory candidate was suspended for saying that gay people are "not normal". In fact that's a more serious problem than it appears - because it confirms a narrative about the Tories that many people already suspected - the image of a residue of nastiness and intolerance behind the enlightened David Cameron.
  • Cameron was also confronted by a voter angry at his policy on special needs education. But there's just a bit of subtlety in this story, and I suspect few people would have listened long enough to the details to care.
  • Last week's totals of political donations were published. The Tories ahead, Labour surprisingly not too far behind (though with a big chunk from a trade union) and the Lib Dems, also surprisingly, nowhere near. I guess that, unlike in the US, it doesn't occur to British voters that a surge in the polls should be rewarded with money. Unless it's on the X-Factor.
  • The SNP is suing the BBC to stop Thursday's debate being shown in Scotland if Alex Salmond is not invited onto the show. Good publicity I guess, whatever the outcome.

I'm quite looking forward to writing up Wednesday. But I'll sleep on it and get events in perspective, as it's very easy to overreact to an event. As every broadcaster and newspaper has just demonstrated.

Ratings: Liberal Democrats 6/10, Labour 5/10, Conservatives 4/10.

2 comments:

Timbo614 said...

I can judge how many votes in my constituency by changing my vote. A clue: I can flip Lib/Con 50/50 or 25/75 :)

Nickoli said...

"a big chunk" of Labour's donations from a trade union? Maybe, but a trade union isn't one person, it's made up of a very large number of individual people (over a million Unite members). And hasn't Lord Ashcroft donated more than Unite?