Saturday, 10 April 2010

Behavioural politics, day 4 of 30

Day four (Friday) and we're still hearing a bit about national insurance. The focus has moved firmly away from discussion of the tax itself, and onto whether the required spending cuts will endanger public services and/or the recovery; and onto the meta-debate about the political effects of talking about this policy. From the BBC:
Could the tide be turning in the National Insurance row? Several newspapers lead with attacks on the businessmen who have backed the Conservative stance. Perhaps the Tories hope their married couple's tax break will move the debate on over the weekend before any sort of potential backlash can gather steam...
Other than that, it's hard to discern much a theme in the day's events:
  • A bit more heuristic optimisation in the Lib Dems' game theory, trying to get the benefits of tactical voting without losing out on it to Labour, while simultaneously avoiding burning any potential bridges with either main party
  • The Tories are accumulating yet more social proof by adopting Peter Gershon, who wrote a report for the government a few years ago on spending cuts and is now advising the Tories; and Michael Caine, who is speaking about their "national service"-style volunteering scheme
  • Labour took a few hours to decide to fire Stuart MacLennan, who made some ill-advised (though hardly unusual) comments on Twitter about "slave-grown bananas" and his opponents. The acceleration of the political cycle is pretty clear - the news emerged at 9, he was fired at 12 and Labour is criticised for moving too slowly.
  • The Lib Dems announce a consumer manifesto which "includes ending "unfair water rates", making airline ticket prices easier to understand and bringing in new legislation to stop banks charging high overdraft fees". An interesting gambit here - I suspect that the idea of a consumer manifesto is too abstract, and they should instead have salami-sliced the policies and announced them one-by-one to maximise both news coverage and the impact of a series of salient individual issues.
  • Brown is trying to make Labour's policy on DNA salient by highlighting the story of Sally Anne Bowman and suggesting that her killer would not have been caught under Tory policies. It can be risky to use such emotive techniques if they become a meta-discussion point throughout the campaign, but if not, they can make a powerful difference to a segment of voters.
  • Brown also uses an effective cognitive technique of concession and request in his evening speech, admitting to being "too serious, impatient and focused on policy" in order to ask the audience's attention while he criticises the Tories.
There are some hints in Friday's coverage about the discussion points for Saturday, but I'll leave those for the next post.

Overall, a not very enlightening day, and if that helps anyone it is probably Labour, who benefit from mean reversion if the Tories' momentum and poll lead are not sustained. The Lib Dems did get more attention than usual, though.

Ratings: Labour 6/10, Conservatives 6/10, Lib Dems 6/10.

1 comment:

Min said...

Hi, Leigh!

I can't see "mean reversion" without thinking of "regression to the mean", which was Galton's mistake, thinking that he had discovered a principle of evolution, rather than a statistical artifact.

It always makes me wonder if it is intended as shorthand for, "There are negative feedback mechanisms at work that we understand, but it would be tedious to identify," or does it mean, "We don't really know what's going on, but let's pretend that we do." ;)